He labeled the audience childish for calling him out on the lie.
Constituents at a Florida town hall that Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) hosted erupted when another Republican official made the long-debunked claim that Americans are subject to so-called death panels under the Affordable Care Act.
Bill Akins, the secretary of the Republican Party of Pasco County, made the claim during the town hall on Saturday.
“Here’s the problem I have with the affordable healthcare act. Number one, there is a provision in there that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel,” he said, prompting immediate screams and boos from the audience. “Yes they do, yes they do, it’s in there folks.”
Akins went on to label the audience childish for calling him out on the lie. “OK children, all right children,” he said.
“Death panels,” which former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made popular in 2009, earned the honor of being PolitiFact’s “lie of the year.” There are no such panels in the law.
“The truth is that the health bill allows Medicare, for the first time, to pay for doctors’ appointments for patients to discuss living wills and other end-of-life issues with their physicians,” PolitiFact wrote in 2009. “These types of appointments are completely optional, and AARP supports the measure.”
Later during the town hall, Akins got into a back-and-forth with a constituent and took offense at being called a liar.
President Donald Trump on Friday proposed the idea of signing a “brand new order” to limit immigration after his previous executive order barring U.S. entrance from seven majority-Muslim nations was twice defeated in court. “We’ll be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country,” he said. Earlier this month, Trump promised to take the original order all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, a plan he now seems to be reconsidering. Trump’s Friday comments emphasized speed as a security necessity, a message he reiterated Saturday morning, tweeting, “Our legal system is broken! ‘77% of refugees allowed into U.S. since travel reprieve hail from seven suspect countries.’ (WT) SO DANGEROUS!” Those countries produce a high volume of refugees because residents seek to escape conditions of war and terrorism.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least six states this week in a surge of what federal officials labeled “routine enforcement actions.” The raids targeted illegal immigrants known to have criminal records beyond their immigration status, though some immigrants without a history of crime were arrested as well. President Trump has promised to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with a criminal background, after which he will consider deporting up to 9 million more without criminal records. President Obama deported 2.5 million people from 2009 to 2015, the largest deportation tally of any president in history and a larger figure than all 20th century deportations combined.
Hundreds of protesters turned out in New York City and Los Angeles Thursday and Friday nights to protest news of a surge in arrests of undocumented immigrants in at least six states. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says this week’s arrests were merely an escalation of routine raids targeting illegal immigrants with criminal records. “Examples would include known street gang members, child sex offenders, and deportable foreign nationals with significant drug trafficking convictions,” said an agency representative. But protesters contends that is an inaccurate description of the raids, which they believe have broken up families and affected many people with no criminal history. “Oftentimes folks’ liberties and their rights are violated during ICE raids,” said Los Angeles protester Jessica Valenzuela, “where they’re picked up without having adequate access to counsel, and that’s one of the biggest concerns.”
U.S. investigators on Friday confirmed some details of the 35-page dossier claiming Russia has compromising information on President Trump, CNN reports. Previously, investigators were unable to verify the claims, which were compiled by a retired British intelligence agent and revealed to the public Jan. 10. CNN said that while the dossier’s more “salacious” contents remain unverified, investigators have corroborated details about some of the communications “between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals.” No specific confirmations were released. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the administration continues “to be disgusted by CNN’s fake news reporting.”
President Trump welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to “the very famous” White House Friday, praising Japan as an “important and steadfast ally” in a joint press conference. Abe in turn praised Trump’s “uphill struggle” to become president and encouraged economic partnership between the countries. “Of course there are disagreements [between Japan and the U.S.], but we should not close down a dialogue just by pointing to the differences,” Abe said. He did not comment on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the deal brokered by President Obama which he supports and Trump opposes. Abe and his wife have joined the First Family at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the weekend.
President Trump reportedly complained about voter fraud in a meeting with 10 senators Thursday intended to be a discussion about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Politico reports Trump said he and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) — who lost her re-election bid and is now serving as a Capitol Hill liaison for Trump on Gorsuch’s nomination — were victims of a rigged election. The senators’ response was reportedly an “uncomfortable silence.” Democratic FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub on Friday called the president’s comments “astonishing” in a statement responding to the story. “Allegations of this magnitude cannot be ignored,” she said, asking Trump to promptly share his evidence with law enforcement.
Protesters blocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering the Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, D.C., on Fridayduring her first visit to a K-12 public school since her swearing-in ceremony Tuesday. Video showed DeVos attempting to enter the school’s side door, only to be physically denied entry by a small group of protesters. She eventually entered the school through another door. Parents and teachers demonstrated at the school to protest the secretary’s record of criticism of the public school system and support for private school vouchers.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Friday rejected U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ selection of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the new U.N. envoy to Libya. “For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” Haley said in a statement indicating the Trump administration “was disappointed” in the pick. A response from Guterres’ office said Fayyad was chosen solely because of his “recognized personal qualities and his competence for that position.” It is unclear whether Fayyad’s candidacy is permanently ended by Washington’s opposition.
Daniel Tarullo, a member of the Federal Reserve Bank’s board of governors, on Friday announced his intention to resign in April, a move that gives President Trump three seats to fill on the board. Tarullo took his position in 2009 and “led the Fed’s work to craft a new framework for ensuring the safety and soundness of our financial system following the financial crisis,” said Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Trump is expected to choose a replacement with a less activist approach to regulation, particularly after the president signaled his interest in repealing some of the Dodd-Frank rules Tarullo helped enforce.
U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly have evidence the Kremlin is considered extraditing NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden from Russia to the United States as a “gift” to “curry favor” with President Trump. Snowden’s lawyer says he has “received no such signals and has no new reason for concern,” but Snowden himself touted the report Friday evening as proof that he is not on Moscow’s payroll. “Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next,” Snowden tweeted. President Trump has said Snowden is a “total traitor” who should be “executed.”
It’s almost comical at this point how bad NBC is at this kind of thing.
This is really more of an aside to a couple ofprevious pieces that ran down NBC’s woes in terms of its roll-out of the shiny new toy it’s obsession over, Megyn Kelly. But it’s information that, while not surprising in the least, deserves to be seen far and wide so people can understand just how badly NBC screwed itself when it didn’t have to.
People magazine is reporting that Tamron Hall, who up until very recently was the popular-as-hell third-hour anchor of the Today show, made the choice to stop being that — and leave NBC entirely — because she wasn’t willing to be sidelined by Kelly. By now pretty much everyone knows that Hall was going to be pushed out, along with her co-host Al Roker, to make room for Kelly’s new hour-long weekday show. No one’s sure yet whether Kelly will replace the third or fourth hour of Today, but either way the anchors who were being given the bum rush were going to be the same.
Right off the bat this was a PR disaster waiting to happen — and happen it certainly did — because Hall and Roker were two black hosts holding the reins of a network morning show and they were being shoved aside to make space for a conservative white woman. That was always a staggeringly arrogant, stupid, and shortsighted move on NBC’s part. But it became worse when, late last week, Hall decided she wasn’t going to accept NBC’s offer of millions to stay put and would be leaving effective just about immediately. She was predictably gracious about her departure from what she now calls her “dream job,” but it was always a given that NBC’s slight of her and Roker — a duo who’d recently taken their hour of Today to number one in the ratings — was the impetus for her quick exit. As a friend of hers now says, Hall “wasn’t going to settle for sitting on the sidelines” for anybody.
This is starting to sound like a broken record, sure, but it’s almost comical how inept and flat-out negligent NBC is when it comes to handling its high-profile talent. Consider for a minute the number of times completely unnecessary psychodrama has accompanied one of 30 Rock’s big transitions from one marquee star to another. The number of times NBC has just mishandled the hell out of a delicate change-over, a hiring or firing, and has wounded egos and found the whole miasma spilling over onto the gossip pages.
Introducing Megyn Kelly should’ve been a piece of cake. Yeah, room would have to be made in the schedule, but the very least you could do is make it as seamless as possible so that both that new host you paid a ton of money for, your network as a whole, and those who’ve worked tirelessly for you for years were all treated fairly and got what they deserved. This shit isn’t brain surgery. It’s television. But damn if NBC can’t figure out a way to lose a patient on the table — if not more than one — every time it tries to do something like this.
Washington (CNN) Traditionally, it’s the role of the first lady to accompany spouses of visiting foreign leaders around Washington. That often means a good deal of showcasing local museums, schools, monuments and gardens. It’s essentially playing tour guide, but it’s part of the role of representing the Administration and playing gracious hostess to very VIP out of town guests.
Melania Trump appears to be breaking with this particular tradition.
On two pre-scheduled Washington stops Friday, one to Gallaudet University and the other to attend a National Cherry Blossom Festival committee meeting at the Japanese embassy, the first lady of Japan, Akie Abe, was alone, without Mrs. Trump to guide her.
. . .
But Mrs. Abe’s solo DC outings are nothing like her previous trips to the US capital city.
In 2015, Mrs. Abe joined Michelle Obama on a visit to a Great Falls, Virginia, elementary school, where the two women were cheered by students.
. . .
(In 2007, Laura Bush and Ms. Abe toured) Mount Vernon, keeping one another company during a walk through the estate’s gardens.
Got that? The Prime Minister of our most important Asian ally — some would argue our most important ally worldwide — and his wife visit DC. Normally, when this happens, while the PM and POTUS are talking business, the US First Lady takes the visiting First Lady on a tour of various sites . . schools, monuments, museums. In the case of the Japanese, it’s usual for them to visit the Japanese cherry trees at the Tidal Basin — Japan gave us over 3,000 trees in 1912 and the Tidal Basin trees are holy ground.
Not the Trumps.
Ms. Abe was left to her own devices.
On top of this, PM Abe laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown BY HIMSELF — Trump was headed off to Mar-A-Largo, could not be bothered.
The Trump’s may live in a faux-gold-plated penthouse and they may pee in a gold toilet… but they are trash without any class or style.
It’s been reported Friday evening that the intel compiled by the former British spy has gained credibility among law enforcement.
The dossier that wouldn’t go away. Some got distracted by the urine aspects, but the real issue is whether or not Donald Trump has been compromised by Russia. It’s been reported Friday evening that the intel compiled by the former British spy has gained credibility among law enforcement.
In January, reports said the intel community was investigating claims that Russia had compromised Trump, and had damaging personal and financial information on then President-elect. Those reports haven’t gone away, and unlike accusations that they were false, they are gaining credibility among the law enforcement according to CBS and CNN.
CNN reported Friday evening, “For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN.”
The salacious aspects of the dossier haven’t been corroborated, but other aspects of the dossier have been corroborated. “The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given US intelligence and law enforcement ‘greater confidence’ in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say.”
In response, the Trump White House accused CNN of being “fake news.”
However, CBS News’s sources concurred with CNN’s report:
@CBSNews has learned that the 35-page dossier compiled by a former British spy is gaining credibility among law enforcement.
On Air Force One heading to his resort with the Japanese Prime Minister, Trump was asked to respond to the Washington Post report that Gen. Flynn possibly violated the Logan Act by discussing sanctions with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. multiple times during the campaign and the transition.
“I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it. What report is that? I haven’t seen that. I’ll look into that,” President Trump said according to a pool report sent to PoliticusUSA, denying that he has any knowledge that his own National Security adviser might have conspired with a hostile, aggressive actor against America’s goals.
Sen. Claire McCaskill has just sent a letter to FBI Dir. Comey asking for an immediate briefing on the Mike Flynn findings. pic.twitter.com/MZFVoKDGSv
There’s a lot of Russian smoke coming from the Trump White House today, and it has the potential to devastate his presidency. This possibly explosive dossier just took another step toward being solidly reliable information.
The individual mandate is expressive of Christian values, she says.
A Tennessee woman is making waves for offering a faith-based defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), arguing that the health care law’s core provision reflects Christian values.
During a town hall Thursday night in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, local resident Jessi Bohon rose to ask Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) a question about health care. After identifying herself as a resident of Black’s district, she launched into a discussion of the ACA’s individual mandate — the requirement that all Americans either purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
The policy has long been defended for its practical benefits, such as how putting more healthy people into the health care system brings down costs for those who are sick.
But while Bohon clearly understood the technical aspects of the law, she grounded her support for the requirement in her faith.
“The ACA mandate requires everyone to have insurance because the healthy people pull up the sick people, right?” she said. “As a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is to pull up the unfortunate.”
Bohon went on to detail why removing the mandate would only hurt average Americans, wondering aloud why lawmakers would end health insurance for 20 million without offering a replacement.
Video of her passionate defense has caught the attention of outlets such as CNN and Time.com, and has already accrued more than 20,000 retweets and 38,000 likes on Twitter.
Although her theological defense of the ACA may surprise some Americans, Bohon is hardly the first person to make a faith-based case for Obamacare. Religious groups have been key allies of the ACA since its inception, backing it when it was signed into law and lending out their sanctuaries and worship spaces to help fellow citizens enroll in health care programs.
A chorus of religious groups have also decried ongoing attempts by the Trump administration and GOP lawmakers to repeal the ACA. Organizations such as the National Council of Churches, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, NETWORK, and the CEO of the Catholic Hospital Association have all spoken out against repealing Obamacare, and a litany of Christian denominations participated in a call-in day to dissuade lawmakers from gutting it.
Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, may be in a lot of trouble.
Late Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that Flynn had called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, the same day that Obama had slapped new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its hack of the US election. The conversation covered the sanctions, and, according to two officials, suggested that the Trump administration would be rolling back the sanctions in the future.
That would mean Flynn had been actively trying to undermine Obama administration policy while not yet in office — a big, questionably legal no-no. Indeed, the FBI is currently investigating the content of the Flynn calls.
The Trump administration repeatedly and publicly denied that Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about sanctions, even enlisting Vice President Mike Pence to back him up in the media. Flynn himself told the Post on Wednesday that he hadn’t talked about sanctions. But the Post spoke to nine former and current US officials with knowledge of the call, which was actually recorded by US intelligence agencies (as all such high-level calls to the Russian ambassador are). Subsequent reporting from otheroutlets backed the Post up.
On Thursday, Flynn, through his spokesperson, backed away from the denial. The spokesperson said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
All of which means that it’s very likely that Flynn lied about the content of his talks with the Russian ambassador. That leaves two big outstanding questions:
Did Flynn lie to Pence about sanctions, or did Pence knowingly lie to the American public?
Did Flynn lie to FBI investigators, too?
The answers could help determine whether Flynn keeps his job — and, potentially, whether he faces criminal charges.
Why the new report is such a problem
Questions about Flynn’s relationship with Russia go all the way back to the campaign, where he served as one of Trump’s top national security staffers. Flynn has spoken very positively about the prospect of partnering with Putin’s regime to fight terrorism, and repeatedly appeared on Russia’s English-language propaganda outlet, RT. Flynn was so in with RT that he had been paid to give a speech at its 10th anniversary dinner in Moscow — where he sat at the head table with Putin himself.
So when Obama imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the election hack, the widespread expectation was that Flynn would work to roll them back once in office. But attempting to undermine them before taking power — on literally the day they were imposed — was something else. It could, arguably, violate the Logan Act, a law which prohibits people outside the executive branch from making foreign policy on behalf of the US administration (though no one has ever been prosecuted under this act).
The first public report of the call came on January 12, in a column by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Follow-ups came swiftly, with administration sources saying the two men had spoken multiple times on the 29th but that they hadn’t discussed sanctions.
That rang hollow to many close observers of the Kremlin, who noted that just one day later Putin announced that he would not retaliate against the US for the sanctions. That was a sharp break with Putin’s normal policy of hitting back hard for any slight, real or perceived. It makes a lot more sense if Putin had just gotten assurances from the next national security adviser that the sanctions would soon go away.
The Trump administration denied that the call was about the sanctions. Trump spokesperson Sean Spicer told reporters that call had grown out of an exchange of holiday greetings on December 25 — a questionable story given that this year’s Russian Orthodox Christmas was actually on January 9, 2017.
On January 15, the White House rolled out a heavyweight: Vice President Pence went on Foxand CBS’ widely watched Sunday talk shows to sell the Christmas-not-sanctions story.
“It was initiated when on Christmas Day, he had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in [a Russian] airline crash that took place” at the time, Pence said during a January 15 appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation. “It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation, they did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
The general outlines of the administration’s story meandered and wavered in some weird ways, as Just Security’s Kate Brannen documents in depth. But one on issue, the Trump team had maintained a clear line: Flynn had not spoken about sanctions with Kislyak on December 29.
“The FBI in late December reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the United States and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn — national security adviser to then-President-elect Trump — but has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government,” the Post explained.
It looked like Phonecallgate might die.
The new Post report, though, does more than simply bring the story back to life. It goes even further, using a large number of sources to paint a picture of an administration where the national security adviser either knowingly lied to the vice president about the content of his conversations with Kislyak (leading Pence to unintentionally relay false information to the American public) or one in which Pence himself deliberately lied.
“All [nine] officials said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit,” the Post’s Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima write. “Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.”
The quality and quantity of the sourcing was so persuasive that even Flynn, who stuck to the old Trump line when the Post reporters first contacted him, eventually had to back down. Moreover, the Post reported, the FBI counterintelligence probe into Flynn’s call is still active.
While the FBI was very unlikely to prosecute Flynn under the Logan Act, lying to FBI investigators is a whole different kettle of fish. If FBI agents had asked him, specifically, about the content of the calls, and he denied speaking to Kislyak about sanctions in the way he had publicly, then he could be (to use a technical legal phrase) in big trouble.
Pence isn’t waiting for the FBI to finish its investigation to seemingly throw Flynn under the bus. Three administration sources told CNN’s Elizabeth Landers on Friday that Flynn had not informed Pence that he had spoken about sanctions when he appeared on TV. “It’s a problem,” one of Landers’ sources said.
This is exactly what one would do if one was getting ready to fire Flynn — to pin this mess on him entirely as a way of immunizing the broader administration from the charge of deceiving the American people. Reportedly, Flynn was already in trouble with the Trump team, on both personal and professional grounds, even before this started.
Flynn “has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor,” the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush write. He “has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque NSC transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.”
Does this mean Flynn will be fired? No, absolutely not. Flynn is a longtime Trump partisan, and Trump values loyalty greatly.
It does, though, mean that he might want to start polishing his resume. As Chris Christie learned during the transition, Trump is perfectly happy to toss a loyalist to the wolves if they get ensnared in a scandal that shows little sign of going away. And that’s exactly where Flynn is now.
President Trump signs an executive order, on January 27th, imposing a travel ban on refugees and a ninety-day hold on travellers from Syria, Iran, and five other Muslim-majority countries.PHOTOGRAPH BY CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered an extraordinary rebuke to President Trump yesterday. The politically diverse panel (two Democratic appointees, one Republican) rejected just about every argument put forth by the Justice Department and left intact a temporary restraining order that prevented Trump’s ballyhooed executive order on immigration from going into effect while a federal court in Seattle considers a challenge brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota. Trump’s political adversaries, starved for victories, celebrated.
But is the Ninth Circuit ruling correct on the law? And what are the prospects for the underlying case as it continues through the legal system toward an expected dénouement in the Supreme Court? Short answer: one can’t say for sure. But I think there are several vulnerabilities in the Ninth Circuit opinion that may help the Trump Administration pull this case out in the end.
Here are four areas of concern.
Standing. Article III of the Constitution says that the federal courts may only decide cases and controversies. The Supreme Court has interpreted this command to mean that only plaintiffs who can claim an “injury in fact” caused by the defendants are allowed to bring cases. If you’re simply interested in a case or, say, alarmed by something the President does but can’t claim a real injury, you’re said to lack standing, and the courts will toss your case without addressing the merits.
What injury did the states of Washington and Minnesota suffer? According to the Ninth Circuit, “the states allege that the teaching and research missions of their universities are harmed by the Executive Order’s effect on their faculty and students who are nationals of the seven affected countries.” The faculty members and students themselves would surely have standing to sue; most of the other cases percolating through the courts involve challenges by individuals whose travel has been affected by the order. But the harm to the universities is pretty attenuated. And it’s worth noting that the Justices of the Supreme Court (and Chief Justice John Roberts in particular) have been sticklers on the standing rule and haven’t hesitated to toss cases on this ground.
Presidential power. Trump issued the executive order pursuant to his power under this federal law:
Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
What does the Ninth Circuit say about this provision? Nothing. Remarkably, the opinion does not quote or even cite the relevant law. (Benjamin Wittes makes this point nicely.) To be sure, the President’s exercise of his authority under this law must be consistent with the Constitution. But the words of the statute must be taken seriously as well. They amount to a broad grant of power in an area (national security) where the courts have traditionally given the President a relatively free hand. The Ninth Circuit should have engaged with this statutory text and explored its relation to the commands of the Constitution.
So how does the executive order fare under constitutional scrutiny?
Due process of law. The primary ground for the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is that “the Government has not shown that the Executive Order provides what due process requires, such as notice and a hearing prior to an individual’s ability to travel.” But in making this finding, the judges refer primarily to the order’s effect on lawful permanent residents, i.e., green-card holders. The main effect of the order, though, is on other immigrants: refugees and visa applicants and visa holders. By definition, they have fewer rights to due process than green-card holders. (They can have some, but are not necessarily entitled to a full panoply of rights to notice and hearing.) The court basically ignores this distinction between green-card holders and others. The language of the executive order, which doesn’t explicitly protect green-card holders, bears significant blame for this confusion. Still, the Supreme Court may take a closer look.
Religious discrimination. Most of the criticism of the executive order has focussed on the possibility of religious discrimination. Many believe that the order represents a “Muslim ban,” as promised by Trump during the campaign, and such a rule would run afoul of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. As the Ninth Circuit notes, the plaintiffs argue that the order is unconstitutional “because it was intended to disfavor Muslims.” The judges say that “the States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions,” but they don’t come out and say that the order represents religious discrimination. By its own terms, the order does not mention Muslims, or any other religion. Of course, it applies only to seven majority-Muslim countries, and it offers special solicitude for applicants from religious minorities in these countries. But the laws of immigration involve making distinctions about which people may enter the country; here again the President enjoys wide latitude. It may be that the plaintiffs can prove that the order represents religious discrimination, but they haven’t done so yet.
These issues represent problems for the challengers to Trump’s executive order. None are necessarily fatal. The botched launch of the order, as well as the President’s crude attempts to disparage the judges who evaluated it, certainly poisoned the atmosphere in which the case was heard. But it’s clear that the Justice Department will keep pressing the defense of the executive order, and the plaintiffs’ celebrations, while understandable, may turn out to be premature.