The Justice Department struggled to convince a federal appeals court panel to allow the federal government to resume enforcement of President Trump’s travel ban executive order, Politico reports. The Trump administration hopes to persuade the court to stay the entirety of a Seattle federal judge’s order blocking key parts of the Jan. 27 directive blocking all refugee admissions and suspending travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries. The three 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges hearing the issue were skeptical enough of the government’s case that Justice Department attorney August Flentje repeatedly raised a fallback option that the court rein in the Seattle judge’s order without lifting it altogether.
After claiming that the courts should have little or no role in reviewing Trump’s decision, Flentje found himself on the defensive as two judges pressed him on the potentially stark implications of that position. “Could the president simply say in the order we’re not going to let any Muslims in?” asked Judge William Canby Jr. “That’s not what the order does here,” Flentje replied. “Oh, I know. Could he do that?” Canby asked again. Judge Richard Clifton expressed “serious concerns” about the scope of the lower court order and seemed inclined to rein it in. Judge Michelle Friedland said the court would act “as soon as possible.” If either side loses outright at the 9th Circuit, a further appeal to the Supreme Court is expected.