Testy exchanges between judges and lawyers over President Trump’s travel ban yesterday indicated that the legality of the president’s executive order could be determined by his prior comments about Muslims, The Guardian reports. The pointed questioning came in an appeals court hearing on Trump’s executive in March that attempted to halt new visas from six Muslim-majority countries and suspend refugee resettlement in the U.S. aftrer an earlier order was chaotically implemented and blocked by federal courts. The revised order was also blocked by courts in Maryland and Hawaii after judges found grounds for constitutional violations.
Yesterday’s hearing was before 13 judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. Almost immediately, judges questioned the acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall about statements made by Trump on the campaign trail in which promised a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S.“This is not a Muslim ban. Its text doesn’t have to anything to do with religion,” Wall argued. Judge Henry Floyd asked Wall if there was “anything other than willful blindness” that could prevent the court from interpreting Trump’s prior remarks in connection with the revised order. Judge Robert King added: “He has never repudiated what he said about the Muslim ban. It’s still on his website.” A few minutes before the hearing began, the pledge appeared to have been removed from Trump’s campaign website, where it had been since December 2015. Experts believe a decision may take a significant amount of time as the en banc hearing will probably mean longer deliberations. Such hearings are rare at the initial stages of proceedings and underline the significance of the case.