With President Trump's Muslim ban back in court on Monday, the White House is being questioned about Trump's past comments about designing a legal ban against Muslims, which judges have pointed to as evidence of the ban's discriminatory intent.
Travel order case heard "en banc" before a panel of all judges of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia).
A statement calling for a "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the USA was apparently removed from President Donald Trump's official campaign website after a reporter asked about it at a press briefing on Monday.
A handful of judges appeared skeptical of Wall's arguments that they shouldn't give weight to Trump's campaign statements. All three judges on the panel are Democratic appointees.
It was based on the same remarks that federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii ruled against the implementation of the ban in February and its revised version in March.
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The government is appealing a lower court's decision to block parts of the revised travel ban.
Also present at the session was Omar Jadwat, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the organization that brought the anti-ban case in Maryland.
"Is there anything other than willful blindness that would prevent us from getting behind those statements?" asked Judge Henry Floyd. Oral arguments will begin in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals in Seattle on Monday, May 15.
The administration chose to fight the travel ban battle in the Fourth Circuit because its considered one of most conservative appeals courts in the country.
The suit in front of the 4th Circuit on Monday was brought by several refugee rights organisations, along with individual plaintiffs who claim the executive order, if allowed to go into effect, would separate them from loved ones overseas, CNN reported.
No court ruling was expected Monday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
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"It's not a Muslim ban". Ten of the court's 13 judges who heard Monday's arguments were appointed by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
His decision blocked part of a March 6 order that restricted entry for 90 days from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Another judge said he was anxious about the idea of a court opening the door to using a president's past to evaluate the constitutionality of a policy. The attorney general of Hawaii, where a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on the ban in March, said the order was like a "neon sign flashing "Muslim Ban, Muslim Ban".
Meanwhile, a group of 12 state attorneys general and the governor of MS argued that the action is not a "pretext for religious discrimination" and should be allowed to take effect.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Wall, acting US solicitor general, argued that Supreme Court's precedents give the chief executive broad power to restrict foreigners from entering the country. Also, the USA refugee resettlement program would be suspended for 120 days, and the order sought to reduce the annual number of refugee admissions to 50,000 for fiscal year 2017, from the usual 110,000.
Several judges expressed skepticism about the idea that the court would blind itself to Trump's comments about Muslims.
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Trump issued the March executive order after federal courts blocked an earlier version, issued on January 27 a week after he took office, that also had included Iraq among the nations targeted.