Appeals Court Slaps Down Donald Trump’s Travel Ban Yet Again

In yet another setback for the Trump administration, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday refused to lift a nationwide injunction that halted a key provision of President Donald Trump?s revised travel ban on six predominantly Muslim nations.

The ruling is the most bruising the White House has suffered in its attempts to defend the ban, as it was rendered by 13 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ? which deemed the case important enough to skip the usual three-judge process that the vast majority of cases go through.

?Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute,? wrote U.S. Chief Circuit Judge Roger Gregory in a ruling that largely upheld the original block on the travel ban.

The decision clears the way for Trump to appeal to the Supreme Court, a move he promised when the first version of the travel ban was shot down. The appeal never materialized ? the administration chose instead to start from scratch and reissue a tamer version of the executive order.

The watered-down version ? which removed Iraq from the list of barred countries and eliminated the ban on Syrian refugees ? no longer applied to permanent residents and had a delayed rollout, all in hopes of avoiding the detentions, chaos and protests unleashed by the first order.

These tweaks were intended to make the travel ban more palatable to the courts. But Trump?s campaign promises and anti-Muslim sentiment kept dogging the administration, and federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland couldn?t help but take that history into account in assessing the travel ban?s legality. Both courts concluded that Trump?s own words, and those of his surrogates, tainted the executive order with unconstitutional animus against a religious group.

?The president has never repudiated the statements he made on a Muslim ban,? said U.S. Circuit Judge Robert King earlier this month when the 4th Circuit heard the case. King and other judges specifically pointed to Trump?s own campaign website, which once called for a ?total and complete shutdown? of Muslims entering the United States, as relevant evidence for the purpose behind the executive order.

The Trump administration, for its part, has insisted that the president?s words shouldn?t be used against him, and that courts should be careful not to look behind the chief executive?s motives or second-guess his broad authority to set immigration policy.

?The order before this court has been the subject of a heated and passionate political debate,? a Department of Justice lawyer said during oral arguments before the 4th Circuit. ?But the precedent set by this case for this court?s role in reviewing the president?s power at the borders will long transcend this debate and this order and this constitutional moment.?

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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