On a day when all eyes are on Washington and the healthcare vote, President Trump just won an important victory as a Virginia judge refused to block his revised travel ban against six predominantly Muslim countries (even though, as Bloomberg reports, the directive remains on hold because of court orders in two other states).
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga on Friday denied a request by Muslim activists for a temporary restraining order, who said Trump’s revised March 6 executive order — like the original before it — was a disguised “Muslim ban” that discriminated against immigrants based on their religion. The Virginia case was brought by Linda Sarsour, a well-known Muslim activist from Brooklyn, New York, and national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington that took place the day after Trump’s inauguration. The suit was the first that sought to use Trump’s recent public remarks against him court, in addition to his comments about Muslims during the campaign. As Bloomberg reports,
At a hearing in Alexandria on March 21, the government’s lawyer, Dennis Barghaan, said another ruling blocking the executive order wasn’t warranted because of the injunctions issued in Hawaii and Maryland. But Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients are still being harmed because “the status of the other orders isn’t durable, and they could be reversed at any time.”
Abbas pointed to Trump’s remarks at the rally, saying they showed the president’s real motive is a bias against Islam. That would violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits any government preference for one religion over another.
“President Trump, hours after Hawaii enjoined the executive order, said three times in 10 minutes, in front of thousands of people and with television cameras pointed in his face, that the new executive order is a watered down version of the first,” which courts had said unfairly targeted Muslims, Abbas said.
The ruling by Trenga in Alexandria bolsters the administration’s efforts to overturn a block on his executive order issued last week by judges in Maryland and Hawaii.
Notably, AP reports that the FBI says authorities are aware that the federal judge in Hawaii who ruled against President Donald Trump’s travel ban has received threatening messages.
FBI spokeswoman Michele Ernst said Thursday the agency is aware of reports of threatening messages against U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson and is prepared to help if necessary.
Watson blocked the federal government from enforcing its ban on new visas for people from six mostly Muslim countries and its suspension of the nation’s refugee program. He issued his ruling last week hours before the travel ban was to go into effect.
The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for protecting federal judicial officials, including judges and prosecutors. The service says marshals don’t discuss specific security measures but does provide additional protection when warranted.
While Judge Trenga’s decision won’t have any immediate effect, it is certain to be cited by administration lawyers as the cases move toward the U.S. Supreme Court.