Trump’s remarks about Muslims could be what ends the travel ban, testimony suggests

Federal appeals judges cites comments Trump made on the campaign trail in which he promised a ‘total and complete shutdown’ of Muslims entering the US

Testy exchanges between judges and lawyers over Donald Trump’s travel ban on Monday indicated that the legality of the president’s executive order could be determined by his prior comments about Muslims.

The pointed questioning came during an appeals court hearing about an executive order Trump issued in March that attempted to halt new visas from six Muslim-majority countries and suspend refugee resettlement in the US. The first order in January was chaotically implemented and blocked by federal courts. The revised order was also blocked by courts in Maryland and Hawaii after judges found grounds for constitutional violations.

The Trump administration then appealed these rulings and on Monday faced the next stage in its legal battle during a hearing in front of 13 judges at the fourth circuit of appeals in Virginia.

Almost immediately, judges questioned the acting US solicitor general, Jeffrey Wall, about past statements made by Trump on the campaign trail during the presidential election in which he promised a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US.

The comments made by Trump and other remarks about the order that were later made by those in his administration were cited by judges in Maryland and Hawaii as evidence of the order’s animus towards Muslims when the order was blocked in March.

“This is not a Muslim ban. Its text doesn’t have to anything to do with religion,” Wall argued on Monday as a number of judges peppered him with questions.

Judge Henry Floyd, a Democratic appointee, asked Wall if there was “anything other than willful blindness” that could prevent the court from interpreting Trump’s prior remarks in connection with the revised order. Judge Robert King, also a Democratic appointee, later added: “He has never repudiated what he said about the Muslim ban. It’s still on his website.”

Just minutes before the hearing began, the pledge appeared to have been removed from Trump’s campaign website, where it had been since December 2015.
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