Yet another federal appeals court ruled Thursday against President Trump’s revised travel ban, saying it is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam.”
The 9-4 decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia, is the second appeals ruling to spank the president, saying his third attempt to try to block dangerous visitors from terrorism hot spots is still illegal.
The issue is already before the Supreme Court based on previous rulings.
But Thursday’s decision adds more legal weight to the opposition to Mr. Trump, with the 4th Circuit, ruling en banc, saying the president’s statements about Muslims, from the campaign and up into his time in office, show a bigotry that cannot be ignored.
“An objective observer could conclude that the President’s repeated statements convey the primary purpose of the Proclamation — to exclude Muslims from the United States,” wrote Judge Roger Gregory, first nominated to the court by President Clinton.
“In fact, it is hard to imagine how an objective observer could come to any other conclusion when the president’s own deputy press secretary made this connection express,” Judge Gregory wrote.
Mr. Trump first issued his travel ban in January 2017, proposing a blunt halt to all arrivals from seven majority-Muslim countries identified by Congress and the Obama administration as terrorism threats.
After courts struck that down he returned with a narrower plan aimed at six countries, and that allowed some citizens of those countries to come under certain circumstances. That plan, too, was rejected by federal courts — though the Supreme Court reversed them and allowed it to take partial effect.
After a long global review of countries’ cooperation, Mr. Trump released a third version of the travel ban last fall, identifying a broader set of countries — including several nonmajority Muslim ones — that earned restrictions. Still, the most severe restrictions were chiefly imposed on majority-Muslim countries.
The court battle over the three orders has been fierce — and deeply partisan.
Nearly every judge who ruled against Mr. Trump was nominated by a Democratic president, while nearly every GOP appointee has ruled in favor of Mr. Trump.
Thursday’s ruling was no different, with all nine of the judges who said the president was anti-Muslim having been appointed by either Mr. Clinton or President Obama.
Still, one Democratic appointee — Judge William Traxler Jr. — sided with Mr. Trump this time, even though he’d ruled against the travel ban in a previous go-around.
He said that while the first two policies were tainted by animus, this one didn’t appear to be.
The three GOP-appointed judges who dissented Thursday said courts have gone too far in trying to stop Mr. Trump, at times “substituting judicial judgment for that of elected representatives.”
“It appears that the temptation may have blinded some Article III courts, including the district court and perhaps the majority of this court, to these obligations, risking erosion of the public’s trust and respect, as well as our long-established constitutional structure,” wrote Judge Paul V. Niemeyer.
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