- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2017

President Trump‘s lawyers told a federal judge Friday that he’s not a legal expert and his comments on his extreme vetting executive orders can’t be taken as gospel truth, as the administration sought to head off yet another legal black eye over his six-country travel ban.

Brad Rosenberg, a Justice Department lawyer, said neither Mr. Trump nor top policy adviser Stephen Miller should be considered authorities when it comes to evaluating what the president’s executive order is supposed to do.

“Neither of them are lawyers,” Mr. Rosenberg told Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

But the judge seemed unswayed during two hours of oral arguments, saying the word “executive” must mean something in “executive orders,” so the words of Mr. Trump and Mr. Miller matter.

“Your argument is belied by the statements of the administration,” said Judge Chutkan.

Judge Chutkan is the latest to hear arguments on the legality of Mr. Trump‘s extreme vetting policy, which seeks to put a pause on all refugee admissions, and to temporarily halt new arrivals from six majority-Muslim countries who don’t already have ties to the U.S. Those countries are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

It’s a more narrow version of an earlier executive order that targeted seven countries, and applied to all persons, including those who’ve lived in the U.S. for years.

While two other federal courts out west have already halted the big parts of the policy, Muslim and Iranian groups have sued in Washington, D.C., asking for an even broader injunction.

They said no matter how Mr. Trump tries to rewrite his policy, it is tainted by his “malicious” profiling of Muslims and his refusal to recant.

“The president has never, ever said the orders are not a Muslim ban,” said Jonathan Freiman, a lawyer for the groups challenging the president.

Judge Chutkan seemed to be grappling with whether to weigh in at all. She asked both sides to go back and file new briefs arguing whether, given the two injunctions already in place, there’s a reason for her to intervene and impose a third one.

Still, if she does weigh in, she seemed skeptical of Mr. Trump‘s defense.

She read a long chain of events beginning with Mr. Trump‘s initial campaign vow to impose a “Muslim ban,” his morphing that into “extreme vetting,” his inauguration and quick issuance of his first policy, the courts’ rejection of that policy, the statements by Mr. Trump and Mr. Miller that a second version would accomplish much the same thing, and then the issuance of the second policy.

“His adviser said the president called him up and said I want to do a Muslim ban, or something to that effect. Make it legal,” the judge said.

“You are in a very unusual position,” she told Mr. Rosenberg, the Justice Department lawyer.

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