Justices could avoid issuing verdict on Trump travel ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s travel ban offers the Supreme Court the chance to make a major pronouncement on the president’s power over immigration. But the case also could vanish into the legal ether, and that may be what a majority of the court is hoping for.

Getting rid of the case would allow the justices to avoid second-guessing the president on a matter of national security or endorsing an especially controversial part of Trump’s agenda.

The timetable surrounding the travel ban could make that possible.

The court will hear a challenge to the temporary pauses on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries and refugees worldwide in less than a month.

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But even before that happens, the 90-day travel ban expires on Sept. 24. The refugee ban lapses a month later.

The administration has yet to say whether it will impose new bans, how long they might last and what countries may be affected. Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are the six countries covered by the existing ban.

The high court could react by ruling that a new lawsuit is necessary or ordering lower courts that have handled the challenges so far to assess the new policy.

So far, the court has stepped in three times to evaluate what parts of the policy can take effect even as legal challenges proceed in the courts.

Chief Justice John Roberts may have the most at stake among the justices in finding a way out of the case without passing judgment on the controversy over a policy Trump talked about during the campaign and then rolled out a week into his presidency.

“It creates political controversy whether the court approves or rejects the travel ban,” said Ilya Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Supreme Court review.

Shapiro said Roberts would strongly prefer any way to get the case out of his court rather than come down on either side of tough questions dealing with the Constitution and immigration law.

Top Justice Department officials in previous Democratic and Republican administrations agreed. “There’s incentive to not decide very much at all,” said Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general for most of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Several other justices may be willing to help Roberts get there, said Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center.

The court’s pronouncements about the travel ban so far have…

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