Sparks fly over Trump’s tweets in the arguments of the travel ban court



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  Activists protest against the travel ban outside the US Supreme Court. UU On December 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. Three versions of President Donald Trump's travel ban - the most controversial of his executive orders - were successfully blocked by the courts, before the Supreme Court allowed the third to take effect this week, pending appeals. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

The president's tweet about pig-wet bullets shows no anti-Muslim bias, Justice Department attorneys argue.

By JOSH GERSTEIN

RICHMOND, Va. – Among all the legal and constitutional arguments that a federal appeals court considered on Friday about President Donald Trump's latest travel ban, the judges returned and again to the same issue: the president's provocative tweets about Muslims.

If the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules against the policy issued by Trump in September, it seems likely that Trump's penchant for tweeting will play an important role in the defeat. 19659008] Continuing story below

During a two-hour court session on Friday held in front of 13 judges, jurists and lawyers looked at the degree to which the president's social media messages reveal an anti-Muslim motivation that undermines is the argument of the lawyers that the last directive that limits the trip to the United States is the product of a thorough review by experts in several federal agencies.

After noting several tweets that Trump sent last week that anti-Muslim videos circulated by a British nationalist group, Judge James Wynn suggested that the court would blink to focus on the administration's reports and other formalities, while the president presented an alternative explanation of what is behind the policy.

"Do we just ignore reality and look at legality to determine how to handle this case?" Wynn asked. "If the reality is that that is the purpose, but the legality allows it, does that make the difference? … If the accusation is that this is an effort to prohibit Muslims from this country and every statement that the individual makes President of the Department of Justice, Hashim Mooppan, said that the President's Twitter statements should not matter, is the president doing so going to say that, but is it done in a way that we say we did a global review? Is it legal? "

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"Under a rational review, the subjective purpose is legally irrelevant," insisted Mooppan. "You do not look to see what's behind the motives."

Wynn did not seem convinced.

"We have the direct statements in the record … We do have that in terms of direct purpose in the president's part," said Wynn, a person appointed by President Barack Obama.

Judge Stephanie Thacker said the government could define too closely which of Trump's comments are relevant to the travel ban policy. She suggested that since the ban is part of Trump's more general counterterrorism efforts, some of his most extravagant statements on that issue are fair to the court.

"The purpose of this proclamation is to deter terrorism?" Asked Thacker, appointed by Obama. "There was a tweet a month before the proclamation was signed tweeting a statement that shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood should be used to prevent future terrorism, how am I going to take it charitably?"

"What the president said in that tweet about how to deal with real terrorists, whatever you think about that, does not suggest that he has any kind of general prejudice against Muslims," ​​Mooppan said. It does not suggest that they are going to ban all Muslims because of fear. "

" The president has continued to make statements that some people consider anti-Muslim after the issuance of this order. Should we be surprised that it can be interpreted as an anti-Muslim order? "Judge Diana Motz, named by President Bill Clinton, asked

" I do not think it's a fair construction … of the proclamation. "Mooppan said the lawyer." The president's statements after the order in his Most say that he wants it to be more difficult … Certainly it is not harder with respect to the Muslims … They brought out the Muslim countries. They added exemptions for Muslim countries. "

The latest travel ban policy placed what Mooppan called" highly adapted "restrictions for travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as North Korea and Venezuela.The proclamation replaced an earlier policy that did not cover the last two countries, but blocked the issuance of visas to the citizens of Sudan, who are now exempt.

During the vigorous arguments, there seemed to be disagreement among the "The position of the department's office is that the president's Twitter account, those are the official statements of the president of the United States," said Judge Pamela Harris, appointed by Obama.

"Claro," Mooppan said.

"Are you admitting tweets are official statements?" Said Paul Niemeyer, a judge who does not sound ba, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush

"That has been the position of the government in other cases, we have a lot of evidence of that," King intervened.

Mooppan said Trump's tweets last week did not make explicit reference to his travel ban policy, so the court should not link them to that.

"The most recent tweets do not even refer to the proclamation," said the attorney for the Department of Justice. "Those statements, especially the most recent, do not speak about the purpose of this proclamation."

"So, he suggests, I advise, that even if the president shows anti-Muslim tendencies in his tweets, that can not be taken in the content of the proclamation," said Judge Barbara Keenan, a person appointed by Obama. "The proclamation should be seen based on its language and not on any anti-Muslim bias as evidenced by the tweets." Is that right?

Mooppan said he did not agree with his "characterization" of the tweets of Trump, but he never explained exactly what he thought the president meant.

Judge Dennis Shedd seemed willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt, arguing that his tweets were open to interpretation.

"When a president He makes statements, some would look at those statements and some would say, "Clearly, it's anti-Muslim." Some would go, if you read them in context … they will say, "No, he is talking about what he perceives as a kind of terrorism related in some way to some people who are Muslim and the so-called radical Islamic terrorism. & # 39; If you can see his statements and each side can find something that point … can you infer what his statements are in light of the deference to which he is entitled? "Shedd, a George W. Bush appointee, asked" Some say: "It's dripping with discrimination".

"I think I should take the most permissible, most reasonable, most charitable interpretation of what that the president did, instead of the most hostile, but especially in this context where we have a proclamation that was recommended by agencies that do not have such statements, "said Mooppan.

The legality of the third iteration of Trump's travel ban policy is now being considered by two federal courts of appeal: the 4th Circuit and the 9th Circuit.The arguments in the 9th Circuit, before a smaller panel of three judges, took place on Wednesday.

However, it seems unlikely that the ruling on the appeals court will have an immediate impact and on Monday, the Supreme Court issued a suspension that blocked the lower court's injunctions and allowed the Trump administration to implement the policy in its entirety until the judges decide to delve into the issue again.

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