Travel ban faces scrutiny from Seattle judges who blocked it before

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Ronald Gould, Richard Paez and Michael Hawkins heard arguments in Seattle on Hawaii’s challenge to the ban.

Three federal appeals-court judges who blocked President Donald Trump’s second travel ban earlier this year asked some skeptical questions about his third and latest set of restrictions on travelers from six mostly Muslim nations during oral arguments on Wednesday.

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Ronald Gould, Richard Paez and Michael Hawkins heard arguments in Seattle on Hawaii’s challenge to the ban.

The hearing came just two days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it was allowing the restrictions to go into effect at least until the 9th Circuit panel and their colleagues on the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit had a chance to rule on separate lawsuits against the ban.

Debate over the restrictions has centered on whether they constitute either a legitimate exercise of national security powers or a “Muslim ban” that Trump promised during his campaign.

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But much of Wednesday’s arguments focused on a narrower point: whether the president satisfied immigration law in issuing his latest travel order, which targets 150 million potential travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

In June, Gould, Paez and Hawkins blocked Trump’s second travel ban, saying he had not made a required finding that the entry of people affected by that measure would be detrimental to U.S. interests.

Neal Katyal, the former U.S. solicitor general representing Hawaii, insisted that Trump had failed again and did not have authority to issue his latest travel restrictions.

“They have not made the findings this court called for,” Katyal said. “They came back with zero.”

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim Mooppan noted that the government had conducted a 90-day, multiagency review, after which Trump determined that certain countries do not provide enough information to the U.S. to sufficiently vet their citizens’ backgrounds.

The ban is needed to keep out “foreign nationals about whom the United States Government lacks sufficient information to assess the risks they pose to the United States,” the president said in his September proclamation announcing the latest travel restrictions.

“You might disagree with the finding, but you can’t disagree that the finding was…

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