- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2017

Federal appeals court judges questioned President Trump’s motives in signing his extreme vetting executive orders in oral argument Monday, wondering whether his own words suggesting he was singling out certain religions for special treatment have poisoned the entire exercise.

Mr. Trump and his lawyers are fighting to restore his revised order, which would halt refugee admissions altogether for 120 days and also block many admissions from six countries the president has deemed so dangerous they need additional scrutiny.

But judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Richmond, repeatedly threw Mr. Trump’s own words back at his legal team, saying his order can be traced directly back to then-candidate Trump’s call for a “Muslim ban.”

“He’s never repudiated what he said about the Muslim ban. It’s still on his website,” said Judge Robert B. King, one of the most pointed questioners on the court.

In fact, it was finally deleted from the campaign website, apparently in response to a reporter’s questions at the White House Monday.

Jeffrey Wall, the acting solicitor general, said those were “archived” statements from early in the campaign and said Mr. Trump has since won primaries, then the election, then formed a government and taken the oath of office — all events that provide a clean break from the campaign rhetoric.

“You can’t reach back to campaign statements,” he said, adding that the original statements were “ambiguous” anyway, and Mr. Trump has since clarified what he meant.

Mr. Wall said judges have “showed real hostility” to Mr. Trump by delving that deeply into the campaign, and he asked the 4th Circuit for a fair shake, previous presidents haven’t been treated the same way.

“We are in uncharted territory,” Judge James A. Wynn Jr. countered.

The case marks the first time Mr. Trump’s revised executive order has reached an appeals court. Lower courts in Maryland and Hawaii have issued nationwide injunctions halting most of the order.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers say he was acting under his powers as president and in the interests of national security, and said as long as the executive order is legal on its face, judges shouldn’t peer behind the curtain to try to read motives into it.

Lower courts have disagreed, saying Mr. Trump’s behavior during the campaign — and statements he made since taking office that he was trying to achieve the same results — have tainted the actions he takes now.

Appellate Judge Dennis W. Shedd on Monday questioned that approach, saying that now Mr. Trump is in office, the attorney general and Homeland Security secretary have both said in their judgment the extreme vetting policy is needed.

“Do you think that taint goes to the attorney general, to the Homeland Security director and to the secretary of state?” the judge said, questioning Omar Jadwat, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union who’s leading the challenge.

“The question in this case is what is the purpose of the order, whether it’s legitimate or not,” Mr. Jadwat said. He said Mr. Trump has shown animus toward Muslims that colors his actions.

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