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Tuesday 30 May 2017

Two US states launch court battle over Trump travel ban

Eman Ali and her father, Ahmed Ali after they arrived at San Francisco International Airport (AP Photo/Olga Rodriguez)
Eman Ali and her father, Ahmed Ali after they arrived at San Francisco International Airport (AP Photo/Olga Rodriguez)
Abdullah Alghazali hugs his 13-year-old son Ali Abdullah Alghazali after the Yemeni boy stepped out of an arrival entrance at JFK Airport in New York (AP Photo/Alexander F Yuan)

Lawyers for the US states of Washington and Minnesota have told a court that restoring President Donald Trump's travel ban would "unleash chaos again".

The filing with the 9th US circuit court of appeals in San Francisco came after the White House said it expected the federal courts to reinstate the ban on refugees and travellers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Washington and Minnesota said their underlying lawsuit was strong and a nationwide temporary restraining order was appropriate.

If the appellate court reinstates Mr Trump's ban on refugees and travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the two states said the "ruling would reinstitute those harms, separating families, stranding our university students and faculty, and barring travel".

The rapid-fire legal manoeuvres by the two states were accompanied by briefs filed by the technology industry, including Apple and Google, arguing that the travel ban would harm their companies by making it more difficult to recruit employees.

Mr Trump's executive order was founded on a claim of national security, but lawyers for the two states told the appellate court the administration's move hurts residents, businesses and universities and is unconstitutional.

The next opportunity for Mr Trump's team to argue in favour of the ban will come in the form of a response to the Washington state and Minnesota filings.

The 9th circuit ordered the US justice department to file its briefs by Monday evening. It has already turned down a request from the department to immediately set aside a Seattle judge's ruling that put a temporary hold on the ban nationwide.

In the latest filing, lawyers for Washington state and Minnesota said: "Defendants now ask this Court to unleash chaos again by staying the district court order. The Court should decline."

That ruling last Friday prompted an ongoing Twitter rant by Mr Trump, who dismissed US district court judge James Robart as a "so-called judge" and branded his decision "ridiculous".

Mr Trump renewed his Twitter attacks against Judge Robart on Sunday, writing: "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"

He followed with another tweet saying he had instructed the US Homeland Security Department to check people coming into the country but that "the courts are making the job very difficult!"

US vice president Mike Pence said "we don't appoint judges to our district courts to conduct foreign policy or to make decisions about the national security".

The government had told the appeals court that the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States.

In his ruling, Judge Robart said it was not the court's job to "create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches", but to make sure that an action taken by the government "comports with our country's laws".

The Twitter attacks on Judge Robart - appointed by former president George W Bush - prompted scolding from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.

"We don't have so-called judges," said Senator Ben Sasse.

"We don't have so-called senators. We don't have so-called presidents. We have people from three different branches of government who take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution."

However, Mr Pence defended the president, saying he "can criticise anybody he wants".

The vice president added that he believes the American people "find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president's mind, but they understand how he feels about things".

Papers were also filed by John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, former US secretaries of state, along with former national security officials under ex-president Barack Obama.

They said Mr Trump's ban would disrupt lives and cripple US counter-terrorism partnerships around the world without making the nation safer.

The six-page declaration filed in court said: "It will aid ISIL's (Islamic State's) propaganda effort and serve its recruitment message by feeding into the narrative that the United States is at war with Islam.

"Blanket bans of certain countries or classes of people are beneath the dignity of the nation and Constitution that we each took oaths to protect."

Earlier, the US president insisted in early-morning tweets "I call my own shots", and that any negative polling data is "fake news".

It is unclear what prompted Mr Trump's social media posts.

The New York Times has released an unflattering portrait of Mr Trump's nights at the White House, suggesting he spends much of his time watching cable news and was not fully briefed before signing an executive order elevating Stephen Bannon to the National Security Council.

Mr Trump tweeted: "I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!"

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