Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation – Washington Post

By , , Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous,

Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.

The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.

FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe.

The Post has not been told that Kushner is a target — or the central focus — of the investigation, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. “Target” is a word that generally refers to someone who is the main suspect of investigators’ attention, though prosecutors can and do bring charges against people who are not marked with that distinction.

“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” said Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys.

In addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking broadly into possible financial crimes — but the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly, did not specify who or what was being examined.

[Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with case say]

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said, “I can’t confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of investigations or subjects of investigations.” The FBI declined to comment.

At the time of the December meetings, Trump already had won the election. Contacts between people on the transition team and foreign governments can be routine, but the meetings and phone calls with the Russians were not made public at the time.

In early December, Kushner met in New York with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and he later sent a deputy to meet with Kislyak. Flynn was also present at the early-December meeting, and later that month, Flynn held a call with Kislyak to discuss U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia. Flynn initially mischaracterized the conversation, even to Vice President Pence — ultimately prompting his ouster from the White House.

Kushner also met in December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In addition to the December meetings, a former senior intelligence official said FBI agents had been looking closely at earlier exchanges between Trump associates and the Russians dating to the spring of 2016, including one at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Kushner and Kislyak — along with close Trump adviser and current attorney general Jeff Sessions — were present at an April 2016 event at the Mayflower where then-candidate Trump promised in a speech to seek better relations with Russia. It is unclear whether Kushner and Kislyak interacted there.

The New York Times reported that Kushner omitted from security-clearance forms his December meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov, though his attorney said that was mere error and he told the FBI soon after that he would amend the forms. The White House said that his meetings were normal and inconsequential.

Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting one of several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In many ways, Kushner is a unique figure inside the White House.

He is arguably the president’s most trusted adviser, and he is also a close member of the president’s family. His list of policy responsibilities is vast — his foreign policy portfolio alone includes Canada and Mexico, China, and peace in the Middle East — yet he rarely speaks publicly about any of them.

Former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III is now leading the probe into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, and he has set up shop in the Patrick Henry Building in downtown D.C. Even before he was picked by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to take over the case, investigators had been stepping up their efforts — issuing subpoenas and looking to conduct interviews, people familiar with the matter said.

A small group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight was recently notified of the change in tempo and focus in the investigation at a classified briefing.

It is unclear exactly how Mueller’s leadership will affect the direction of the probe. This week, Justice Department ethics experts cleared him to take over the case even though lawyers at his former firm, WilmerHale, represent several people who could be caught up in the matter, including Kushner, Manafort and Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is married to Kushner.

Mueller resigned from the firm to take over the investigation.

Investigators are continuing to look aggressively into the dealings of Flynn, and a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., recently issued a subpoenas for records related to Flynn’s businesses and finances, according to people familiar with the matter.

Flynn’s company, the Flynn Intel Group, was paid more than $500,000 by a company owned by a Turkish American businessman close to top Turkish officials for research on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who Turkey’s president claims was responsible for a coup attempt last summer. Flynn retroactively registered with the Justice Department in March as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests.

Separately from the probe now run by Mueller, Flynn is being investigated by the Pentagon’s top watchdog for his foreign payments. Flynn also received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization.

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Manchester bomber probably had ISIS training, US official says – CNN

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Leading from the side: At NATO event, Trump waffles again on US commitments – Washington Post

The Debrief: An occasional series offering a reporter’s insights

By ,

At a NATO ceremony in Brussels on Thursday, President Trump appeared, in a moment captured on video, to push aside another world leader to get a spot at the front. That prompted pundits to joke that after eight years of Barack Obama’s cautious foreign policy, the United States was no longer “leading from behind.”

But Trump’s remarks at the event celebrating the Article 5 mutual defense treaty left the impression of a president who continues to lead from the side — with one foot in and one foot out when it comes to U.S. multilateral commitments.

Whether it’s NATO, the Paris climate pact, the Iran nuclear deal or the NAFTA trade accord, the Trump administration has wavered and equivocated, failing to offer a full-throated endorsement and allowing such agreements to continue in an awkward state of limbo without U.S. leadership and nourishment.

Thursday’s ceremony at the new NATO headquarters was supposed to put an end to the uncertainty among U.S. allies and partners in Europe. Trump’s aides had laid the groundwork, hinting to reporters that the president, who had questioned the security alliance during his campaign, would directly endorse Article 5.

Instead, Trump found no space to do so in his 900-word address, as he stood next to a new monument symbolizing the treaty — a twisted piece of metal from the World Trade Center after it was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City.

Article 5 was invoked by NATO for the first time after the attacks that day.

“I was fully convinced he would do it because it’s very simple,” said Thomas Wright, a Europe expert at the Brookings Institution. “It was the perfect time, standing aside the wreckage. . . . It’s very surprising he didn’t do it. I think it’s a real problem for him. It automatically turns the trip into a failure from a policy point of view.”

[Trump chastises NATO members, demands they meet payment obligations]

The critical reaction, which came quickly on social media, forced White House aides to try to clean up after the president. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, press secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump’s participation in the event demonstrated his support.

“I think it’s a bit silly,” Spicer said, adding that the idea of Trump “having to reaffirm” his administration’s support for Article 5 while he was attending a ceremony celebrating it “is almost laughable.”

Trump campaigned on a nationalist agenda that promised to put “America first,” and he expressed deep skepticism of the U.S.-led multilateral institutions that emerged after World War II.

Since he assumed office, however, Trump has failed to follow through on some of his most extreme rhetoric to withdraw the United States from global partnerships other than the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which he scrapped in his first week. He has emphasized the importance of NATO during remarks at the White House.

His reluctance to blow up the agreements has been widely viewed as a realization by a new president that complicated global problems — including terrorism and North Korea’s nuclear threat — require broad-based international cooperation. It also has been seen as an example of the rising influence of more moderate factions within a West Wing racked by infighting among advisers with roots in Wall Street and those with more populist convictions.

But Trump has continued to denounce what he views as an unfair system that puts undue burdens on the United States. He chided NATO partners during his remarks Thursday for failing to devote 2 percent of their nation’s budgets to defense to meet a goal established by the organization.

For NATO countries, the upshot is that their relations with the Trump administration continue to be defined by uncertainty and anxiety even as the president wraps up a maiden foreign trip this weekend that aimed to reaffirm U.S. global leadership.

“It creates a hedging behavior,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a global risk consulting firm, pointing to countries such as Germany and France that have long had close relations with the United States.

[Trump pushes back past Montenegro’s prime minister]

Trump’s posture “makes it more likely these countries are going their own way,” Bremmer said. “There will be some move towards more coordination of European-only security, and there will be less coordination with the United States.”

Trump’s aides insist that his foreign policy is purposely unpredictable, aimed at keeping other countries off balance and giving the United States an edge — at the bargaining table or on the battlefield. The president’s threats last month to withdraw from NAFTA resulted in the leaders of Canada and Mexico reportedly agreeing in principle to engage in talks to amend the terms of the 23-year-old trade accord.

In many cases, however, it is not even clear what is being negotiated.

Ahead of Trump’s attendance at Friday’s Group of Seven summit in Sicily, negotiators have been trying to get the United States to sign a joint statement that would walk the administration closer to endorsing the Paris climate pact inked in 2015 to reduce carbon emissions.

Trump denounced the deal during the campaign and has moved to reverse Obama-era regulations on automobiles and power plants. Inside the West Wing, advisers are sharply divided over whether to end U.S. support for the Paris deal.

A former U.S. official involved in the deal who remains close to the talks said things look promising for a joint statement on climate at the G-7 summit. But he emphasized that even if the United States signs on, it would not be a direct reaffirmation of the Paris accord.

Therefore, the former official said, it will remain uncertain where Trump stands unless he personally voices clear support during the summit.

“There’s a lot of hesi­ta­tion to put out a clear statement of policy” among the Trump administration, said the former official, who was not authorized by his current employer to speak on the record. “It’s not policy unless the president says it is.”

Rivals have spotted openings in Trump’s equivocations. China has promoted its commitment not just to global free trade agreements but also to the Paris climate pact, while U.S. allies in its sphere of influence — including the Philippines and Australia — have looked to deepen ties with Beijing. Although the hedging began under the Obama administration, analysts said, it has sped up under Trump.

Some analysts said that it is becoming clearer that regardless of the ongoing policy divisions within the West Wing, Trump is fundamentally skeptical of multilateralism and that he will remain hostile to such agreements.

“I don’t think this is about sending a message to his base to get their support — it’s a conviction,” said Wright, the Brookings analyst. “I always thought Trump was more ideological than people think on a small number of things. This is one of them.”

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Federal appeals court maintains freeze of Trump's travel ban. Attorney General vows Supreme Court appeal. – Washington Post

By and ,

A federal appeals court on Thursday left in place the freeze on President Trump’s revised entry ban, handing the administration another legal setback in its efforts to block the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

The broad, decisive ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a 10-to-3 decision, the Richmond-based court said the president’s power to deny entry into the United States is not absolute and sided with challengers, finding that the travel ban “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The president’s authority, the court said, “cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, and joined in part by nine colleagues.

The 4th Circuit order leaves in place a nationwide injunction issued in March by a Maryland federal judge, who sided with opponents in finding that the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. Thursday’s ruling means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

[Judges press Trump’s lawyers in travel ban case on campaign statements]

Even if the appeals court had sided with the Trump administration, the president’s order would have remained on hold because of a separate opinion from a federal judge in Hawaii. To put the ban in motion, the Justice Department would also have had to win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard oral arguments on May 15 in the government’s appeal of the Hawaii decision.

Federal immigration law gives the president broad authority, and acting solicitor general Jeffrey B. Wall had urged the court to defer to the president and not second guess his judgment.

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of defeats for the administration. President Trump rewrote the entry ban after the 9th Circuit in February refused to lift an earlier injunction.

The revised version would temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to travelers from the six countries while the administration reviews its screening process.

[Read the full 4th Circuit opinion on President Trump’s travel order]

If the administrations asks the Supreme Court to stay the 4th Circuit’s decision, the request usually requires showing that the government would suffer irreparable harm if the lower court decision was allowed to stand. The passage of time since the executive order was first issued might make that difficult.

Sessions said the administration “strongly disagrees” with Thursday’s decision.

The president’s order, Sessions said in a statement, is “well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe” and said the president is “not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States.”

A challenge would go to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who receives emergency petitions from that court, and then be referred to the rest of the justices. It would take five votes to stay the decision.

[9th Circuit rules 3 to 0 against Trump on first version of travel ban]

The challenge in Maryland was brought by organizations and individuals, including a Muslim in the United States whose relative would be affected by the ban. In its 79-page opinion, the court said challengers had demonstrated the harm that would come from delaying or disrupting pending visa applications, in addition to the “psychological harm that flows from confronting official action preferring or disfavoring a particular religion.”

Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center, and one of the lawyers on the case, said the court concluded the president’s order has to be blocked because it “steps over the constitutional line in a way that is out of step with our constitutional values of religious tolerance.”

During oral arguments this month, many of the 4th Circuit judges questioned the government’s lawyer about the link between U.S. security and the barring of citizens from the six countries identified by the administration.

In its opinion Thursday, the court said, “plaintiffs point to ample evidence that national security is not the true reason” for the order, “including, among other things, then-candidate Trump’s numerous campaign statements expressing animus towards the Islamic faith” and his proposal as a candidate to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

A key issue for the court was whether to consider the president’s political statements and whether the order violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment that specifically prohibits the government from denigrating a particular religion. The travel order itself makes no mention of religion or Muslims.

The majority opinion recounts in detail Trump’s statements, and quotes extensively from his tweets, media interviews and comments made by his supporters and advisers, including White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

“Laid bare, this executive order is no more than what the president promised before and after his election: naked invidious discrimination against Muslims,” Judge James A. Wynn, Jr., wrote in a concurring opinion.

Judge Stephanie D. Thacker also sided with the majority, but said the court could reach the same conclusion without relying on Trump’s comments before he became president.

All of the judges in the majority were nominated to the court by Democratic presidents and the three dissenting judges — Paul V. Niemeyer, Dennis W. Shedd and G. Steven Agee — were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Niemeyer called the decision unprecedented and unworkable.

“The Supreme Court surely will shudder at the majority’s adoption of this new rule that has no limits or bounds,” Niemeyer wrote. “one that transforms the majority’s criticisms of a candidate’s various campaign statements into a constitutional violation.”

Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

Read more:

There’s a word that no longer describes the federal appeals court in Richmond

Despite a mother’s plea, a gun store sold her mentally ill daughter a weapon. With tragic consequences.

Man cleared of murder conviction after 24 years behind bars, with help of an ex-cop

President Trump’s lawyers on revised travel ban repeatedly asked about campaign promises

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Federal appeals court maintains freeze of Trump's travel ban. Attorney general vows Supreme Court appeal. – Washington Post

By and ,

A federal appeals court on Thursday left in place the freeze on President Trump’s revised entry ban, handing the administration another legal setback in its efforts to block the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

The broad, decisive ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a 10-to-3 decision, the Richmond-based court said the president’s power to deny entry into the United States is not absolute and sided with challengers, finding that the travel ban “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The president’s authority, the court said, “cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory and joined in part by nine colleagues.

The 4th Circuit order leaves in place a nationwide injunction issued in March by U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland, who sided with opponents in finding that the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. Thursday’s ruling means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

[Judges press Trump’s lawyers in travel ban case on campaign statements]

Even if the appeals court had sided with the Trump administration, the president’s order would have remained on hold because of a separate opinion from a federal judge in Hawaii. To put the ban in motion, the Justice Department would also have had to win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, which heard oral arguments on May 15 in the government’s appeal of the Hawaii decision.

Federal immigration law gives the president broad authority, and acting solicitor general Jeffrey B. Wall had urged the court to defer to the president and not second-guess his judgment.

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of defeats for the administration. Trump rewrote the entry ban after the 9th Circuit in February refused to lift an earlier injunction.

The revised version would temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to travelers from the six countries while the administration reviews its screening process.

[Read the full 4th Circuit opinion on President Trump’s travel order]

If the administration asks the Supreme Court to stay the 4th Circuit’s decision, the request usually requires showing that the government would suffer irreparable harm if the lower court decision was allowed to stand. The passage of time since the executive order was first issued might make that difficult.

Sessions said the administration “strongly disagrees” with Thursday’s decision but did not detail its strategy except to say that the government “will seek review” of the ruling.

The president’s order, Sessions said in a statement, is “well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe,” and the president is “not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States.”

A challenge would go to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who receives emergency petitions from that court, and then be referred to the rest of the justices. It would take five votes to stay the decision.

[9th Circuit rules 3 to 0 against Trump on first version of travel ban]

The challenge in Maryland was brought by organizations and individuals, including a Muslim in the United States whose relative would be affected by the ban. In its 79-page opinion, the court said challengers had demonstrated the harm that would come from delaying or disrupting pending visa applications, in addition to the “psychological harm that flows from confronting official action preferring or disfavoring a particular religion.”

Karen Tumlin, the legal director at the National Immigration Law Center and one of the lawyers on the case, said the court concluded that the president’s order has to be blocked because it “steps over the constitutional line in a way that is out of step with our constitutional values of religious tolerance.”

During oral arguments this month, many of the 4th Circuit judges questioned the government’s lawyer about the link between U.S. security and the barring of citizens from the six countries identified by the administration.

In its opinion Thursday, the court said, “plaintiffs point to ample evidence that national security is not the true reason” for the order, “including, among other things, then-candidate Trump’s numerous campaign statements expressing animus towards the Islamic faith” and his proposal as a candidate to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

A key issue for the court was whether to consider the president’s political statements and whether the order violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment that specifically prohibits the government from denigrating a particular religion. The travel order itself makes no mention of religion or Muslims.

The majority opinion recounts in detail Trump’s statements, and it quotes extensively from his tweets, media interviews and comments made by his supporters and advisers, including White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

“Laid bare, this executive order is no more than what the president promised before and after his election: naked invidious discrimination against Muslims,” Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a concurring opinion.

Judge Stephanie D. Thacker also sided with the majority but said the court could reach the same conclusion without relying on Trump’s comments before he became president.

All of the judges in the majority were nominated to the court by Democratic presidents, and the three dissenting judges — Paul V. Niemeyer, Dennis W. Shedd and G. Steven Agee — were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Niemeyer called the decision unprecedented and unworkable.

“The Supreme Court surely will shudder at the majority’s adoption of this new rule that has no limits or bounds,” Niemeyer wrote. “One that transforms the majority’s criticisms of a candidate’s various campaign statements into a constitutional violation.”

Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

Read more:

There’s a word that no longer describes the federal appeals court in Richmond

Despite a mother’s plea, a gun store sold her mentally ill daughter a weapon. With tragic consequences.

Man cleared of murder conviction after 24 years behind bars, with help of an ex-cop

President Trump’s lawyers on revised travel ban repeatedly asked about campaign promises

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Federal appeals court maintains freeze of Trump's travel ban. Attorney general vows Supreme Court appeal. – Washington Post

By and ,

A federal appeals court on Thursday left in place the freeze on President Trump’s revised entry ban, handing the administration another legal setback in its efforts to block the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

The broad, decisive ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a 10-to-3 decision, the Richmond-based court said the president’s power to deny entry into the United States is not absolute and sided with challengers, finding that the travel ban “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The president’s authority, the court said, “cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory and joined in part by nine colleagues.

The 4th Circuit order leaves in place a nationwide injunction issued in March by U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland, who sided with opponents in finding that the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. Thursday’s ruling means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

[Judges press Trump’s lawyers in travel ban case on campaign statements]

Even if the appeals court had sided with the Trump administration, the president’s order would have remained on hold because of a separate opinion from a federal judge in Hawaii. To put the ban in motion, the Justice Department would also have had to win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, which heard oral arguments on May 15 in the government’s appeal of the Hawaii decision.

Federal immigration law gives the president broad authority, and acting solicitor general Jeffrey B. Wall had urged the court to defer to the president and not second-guess his judgment.

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of defeats for the administration. Trump rewrote the entry ban after the 9th Circuit in February refused to lift an earlier injunction.

The revised version would temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to travelers from the six countries while the administration reviews its screening process.

[Read the full 4th Circuit opinion on President Trump’s travel order]

If the administration asks the Supreme Court to stay the 4th Circuit’s decision, the request usually requires showing that the government would suffer irreparable harm if the lower court decision was allowed to stand. The passage of time since the executive order was first issued might make that difficult.

Sessions said the administration “strongly disagrees” with Thursday’s decision but did not detail its strategy except to say that the government “will seek review” of the ruling.

The president’s order, Sessions said in a statement, is “well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe,” and the president is “not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States.”

A challenge would go to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who receives emergency petitions from that court, and then be referred to the rest of the justices. It would take five votes to stay the decision.

[9th Circuit rules 3 to 0 against Trump on first version of travel ban]

The challenge in Maryland was brought by organizations and individuals, including a Muslim in the United States whose relative would be affected by the ban. In its 79-page opinion, the court said challengers had demonstrated the harm that would come from delaying or disrupting pending visa applications, in addition to the “psychological harm that flows from confronting official action preferring or disfavoring a particular religion.”

Karen Tumlin, the legal director at the National Immigration Law Center and one of the lawyers on the case, said the court concluded that the president’s order has to be blocked because it “steps over the constitutional line in a way that is out of step with our constitutional values of religious tolerance.”

During oral arguments this month, many of the 4th Circuit judges questioned the government’s lawyer about the link between U.S. security and the barring of citizens from the six countries identified by the administration.

In its opinion Thursday, the court said, “plaintiffs point to ample evidence that national security is not the true reason” for the order, “including, among other things, then-candidate Trump’s numerous campaign statements expressing animus towards the Islamic faith” and his proposal as a candidate to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

A key issue for the court was whether to consider the president’s political statements and whether the order violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment that specifically prohibits the government from denigrating a particular religion. The travel order itself makes no mention of religion or Muslims.

The majority opinion recounts in detail Trump’s statements, and it quotes extensively from his tweets, media interviews and comments made by his supporters and advisers, including White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

“Laid bare, this executive order is no more than what the president promised before and after his election: naked invidious discrimination against Muslims,” Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a concurring opinion.

Judge Stephanie D. Thacker also sided with the majority but said the court could reach the same conclusion without relying on Trump’s comments before he became president.

All of the judges in the majority were nominated to the court by Democratic presidents, and the three dissenting judges — Paul V. Niemeyer, Dennis W. Shedd and G. Steven Agee — were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Niemeyer called the decision unprecedented and unworkable.

“The Supreme Court surely will shudder at the majority’s adoption of this new rule that has no limits or bounds,” Niemeyer wrote. “One that transforms the majority’s criticisms of a candidate’s various campaign statements into a constitutional violation.”

Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

Read more:

There’s a word that no longer describes the federal appeals court in Richmond

Despite a mother’s plea, a gun store sold her mentally ill daughter a weapon. With tragic consequences.

Man cleared of murder conviction after 24 years behind bars, with help of an ex-cop

President Trump’s lawyers on revised travel ban repeatedly asked about campaign promises

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Trump pushes around NATO; lecture seen as unsettling alliance – CNN

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Federal appeals court largely maintains freeze of Trump's travel ban – Washington Post

By and ,

A federal appeals court on Thursday left in place the freeze on President Trump’s revised entry ban, handing the administration another legal setback in its efforts to block the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim majority countries.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

In its 10 to 3 decision, the Richmond-based court said the president’s broad immigration power to deny entry into the U.S. is not absolute and sided with challengers, finding that the travel ban “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The president’s authority, the court said, “cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, and joined in part by nine other judges.

The 4th Circuit declined to lift an order from a Maryland federal judge, who ruled against the travel ban in March and sided with opponents who said the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. The ruling leaves the injunction in place and means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

[Judges press Trump’s lawyers in travel ban case on campaign statements]

Even if the appeals court had sided with the Trump administration, the president’s order would have remained on hold because of a separate opinion from a federal judge in Hawaii. To put the ban in motion, the Justice Department would also have had to win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard oral arguments on May 15 in the government’s appeal of the Hawaii decision.

Federal immigration law gives the president broad immigration powers and government lawyers urged the court to defer to the president and not second guess his judgment.

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of defeats for the administration. President Trump rewrote the entry ban after the 9th Circuit in February refused to lift an earlier injunction.

The revised version would temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to travelers from the six countries while the administration reviews its screening process.

The next step for the Trump administration would be to ask the Supreme Court to stay the 4th Circuit’s decision. Such a request usually requires showing that the government would suffer irreparable harm if the lower court decision was allowed to stand. The passage of time since the executive order was first issued might make that difficult.

A challenge to the 4th Circuit decision would go to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who receives emergency petitions from that court, and then be referred to the rest of the justices. It would take five votes to stay the decision.

The administration might also wait until it receives a ruling from a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Those judges are considering a ruling from a judge in Hawaii who put the travel ban on hold. The full 9th Circuit upheld a freeze on Trump’s previous executive order.

[9th Circuit rules 3 to 0 against Trump on first version of travel ban]

The challenge in Maryland was brought by organizations and individuals, including a Muslim in the United States whose relative would be affected by the ban.

In its 79-page opinion, the court said challengers had shown real harm that would come from delaying or disrupting pending visa applications, in addition to the “psychological harm that flows from confronting official action preferring or disfavoring a particular religion.”

During oral arguments this month, many of the 4th Circuit judges expressed doubts about the viability of the president’s order. They questioned whether there was a link between barring of citizens from the six countries identified by the administration and ensuring U.S. security.

In its opinion Thursday, the court said, “plaintiffs point to ample evidence that national security is not the true reason” for the order, pointing to the president’s “numerous campaign statements expressing animus towards the Islamic faith” and his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

The majority opinion recounts in detail then-candidate Trump’s statement on his campaign website, and quotes from his tweets, television interviews and comments made by his advisers.

The establishment clause of the First Amendment specifically prohibits the government from denigrating a particular religion.

Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center, one of the lawyers on the cases said Thursday that the court had concluded that this executive order has to be blocked because it “steps over the constitutional line in a way that is out of step with our constitutional values of religious tolerance.”

All of the judges in the majority were placed on the court by Democratic presidents and the three dissenting judges — Paul V. Niemyer, Dennis W. Shedd and G. Steven Agee — were all nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Niemeyer called the decision unprecedented and unworkable. “The majority looks past the face of the order’s statements on national security and immigration, which it concedes are neutral in terms of religion, and considers campaign statements made by candidate Trump to conclude that the order denigrates Islam, in violation of the Establishment Clause,” he wrote. He said that approach plainly violates Supreme Court precedent, misapplies the Constitutional’s prohibition on establishing religion and “adopts a new rule of law that uses campaign statements to recast the plain, unambiguous, and religiously neutral text of an executive order.”

He said the majority decision would not withstand Supreme Court review.

“The Supreme Court surely will shudder at the majority’s adoption of this new rule that has no limits or bounds — one that transforms the majority’s criticisms of a candidate’s various campaign statements into a constitutional violation,” wrote Niemeyer, whose opinion was joined by the other dissenting judges.

Read more:

There’s a word that no longer describes the federal appeals court in Richmond

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President Trump’s lawyers on revised travel ban repeatedly asked about campaign promises

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Federal appeals court largely maintains freeze of Trump's travel ban – Washington Post

By and ,

A federal appeals court on Thursday left in place the freeze on President Trump’s revised entry ban, handing the administration another legal setback in its efforts to block the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim majority countries.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

In its 10 to 3 decision, the Richmond-based court said the president’s broad immigration power to deny entry into the U.S. is not absolute and sided with challengers, finding that the travel ban “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The president’s authority, the court said, “cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, and joined in part by nine other judges.

The 4th Circuit declined to lift an order from a Maryland federal judge, who ruled against the travel ban in March and sided with opponents who said the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. The ruling leaves the injunction in place and means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

[Judges press Trump’s lawyers in travel ban case on campaign statements]

Even if the appeals court had sided with the Trump administration, the president’s order would have remained on hold because of a separate opinion from a federal judge in Hawaii. To put the ban in motion, the Justice Department would also have had to win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard oral arguments on May 15 in the government’s appeal of the Hawaii decision.

Federal immigration law gives the president broad immigration powers and government lawyers urged the court to defer to the president and not second guess his judgment.

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of defeats for the administration. President Trump rewrote the entry ban after the 9th Circuit in February refused to lift an earlier injunction.

The revised version would temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to travelers from the six countries while the administration reviews its screening process.

The next step for the Trump administration would be to ask the Supreme Court to stay the 4th Circuit’s decision. Such a request usually requires showing that the government would suffer irreparable harm if the lower court decision was allowed to stand. The passage of time since the executive order was first issued might make that difficult.

A challenge to the 4th Circuit decision would go to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who receives emergency petitions from that court, and then be referred to the rest of the justices. It would take five votes to stay the decision.

The administration might also wait until it receives a ruling from a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Those judges are considering a ruling from a judge in Hawaii who put the travel ban on hold. The full 9th Circuit upheld a freeze on Trump’s previous executive order.

[9th Circuit rules 3 to 0 against Trump on first version of travel ban]

The challenge in Maryland was brought by organizations and individuals, including a Muslim in the United States whose relative would be affected by the ban.

In its 79-page opinion, the court said challengers had shown real harm that would come from delaying or disrupting pending visa applications, in addition to the “psychological harm that flows from confronting official action preferring or disfavoring a particular religion.”

During oral arguments this month, many of the 4th Circuit judges expressed doubts about the viability of the president’s order. They questioned whether there was a link between barring of citizens from the six countries identified by the administration and ensuring U.S. security.

In its opinion Thursday, the court said, “plaintiffs point to ample evidence that national security is not the true reason” for the order, pointing to the president’s “numerous campaign statements expressing animus towards the Islamic faith” and his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

The majority opinion recounts in detail then-candidate Trump’s statement on his campaign website, and quotes from his tweets, television interviews and comments made by his advisers.

The establishment clause of the First Amendment specifically prohibits the government from denigrating a particular religion.

Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center, one of the lawyers on the cases said Thursday that the court had concluded that this executive order has to be blocked because it “steps over the constitutional line in a way that is out of step with our constitutional values of religious tolerance.”

All of the judges in the majority were placed on the court by Democratic presidents and the three dissenting judges — Paul V. Niemyer, Dennis W. Shedd and G. Steven Agee — were all nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Niemeyer called the decision unprecedented and unworkable. “The majority looks past the face of the order’s statements on national security and immigration, which it concedes are neutral in terms of religion, and considers campaign statements made by candidate Trump to conclude that the order denigrates Islam, in violation of the Establishment Clause,” he wrote. He said that approach plainly violates Supreme Court precedent, misapplies the Constitutional’s prohibition on establishing religion and “adopts a new rule of law that uses campaign statements to recast the plain, unambiguous, and religiously neutral text of an executive order.”

He said the majority decision would not withstand Supreme Court review.

“The Supreme Court surely will shudder at the majority’s adoption of this new rule that has no limits or bounds — one that transforms the majority’s criticisms of a candidate’s various campaign statements into a constitutional violation,” wrote Niemeyer, whose opinion was joined by the other dissenting judges.

Read more:

There’s a word that no longer describes the federal appeals court in Richmond

Despite a mother’s plea, a gun store sold her mentally ill daughter a weapon. With tragic consequences.

Man cleared of murder conviction after 24 years behind bars, with help of an ex-cop

President Trump’s lawyers on revised travel ban repeatedly asked about campaign promises

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Federal appeals court largely maintains freeze of Trump's travel ban – Washington Post

By and ,

A federal appeals court on Thursday largely left in place the freeze on President Trump’s revised entry ban, handing the administration another legal blow in its efforts to block the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim majority countries.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

In its 10 to 3 decision, the Richmond-based court said the president’s broad immigration power to deny entry into the U.S. is not absolute.

“It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, and joined in part by nine other judges.

The 4th Circuit declined to lift an order from a Maryland federal judge, who ruled against the travel ban in March and sided with opponents who said the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. The ruling leaves the injunction in place and means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

[Judges press Trump’s lawyers in travel ban case on campaign statements]

Even if the appeals court had sided with the Trump administration, the president’s order would have remained on hold because of a separate opinion from a federal judge in Hawaii. To put the ban in motion, the Justice Department would also have had to win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard oral arguments on May 15 in the government’s appeal of the Hawaii decision.

The losing side in either case is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Federal immigration law gives the president broad powers when it comes to restricting entry into the U.S. by foreigners, and government lawyers urged the court to defer to the president and not second guess his judgment.

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of legal setbacks for the administration. President Trump rewrote the entry ban after the 9th Circuit in February refused to lift an earlier injunction.

The revised version would temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to travelers from the six countries while the administration reviews its screening process.

[9th Circuit rules 3 to 0 against Trump on first version of travel ban]

During oral arguments this month, many of the 4th Circuit judges expressed doubts about the viability of the president’s order. They questioned whether there was a link between barring of citizens from the six countries identified by the administration and ensuring U.S. security.

Several judges also pointed to the president’s campaign promise to bar Muslims from entry and subsequent statements. They suggested that the court should not ignore those comments when determining whether the order violates the Constitution. The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from denigrating a particular religion.

Read more:

There’s a word that no longer describes the federal appeals court in Richmond

Despite a mother’s plea, a gun store sold her mentally ill daughter a weapon. With tragic consequences.

Man cleared of murder conviction after 24 years behind bars, with help of an ex-cop

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