The Trump administration on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to let it move forward with the president’s plan to temporarily ban citizens from six mostly Muslim countries, elevating a divisive legal battle involving national security and religious discrimination to the nation’s highest court.
Justice Department lawyers asked the court to overturn a decision of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that kept in place a freeze on President Trump’s revised ban.
The 10-to-3 ruling last week was one in a series of legal defeats for the administration, as judges across the country have said Trump’s claim of protecting the nation was cover for making good on a campaign promise to ban Muslims from entry into the United States.
The government’s filing late Thursday asks the justices to set aside the 4th Circuit ruling and accept the case for oral arguments. It also asks the high court to lift a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge in a separate Hawaii case. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which covers Hawaii, heard the government’s arguments in that case last month, but has not yet ruled.
In turning to the high court, Justice Department lawyers said the 4th Circuit should have considered only the language of the executive order and not second guessed the president’s motivations.
The Supreme Court “has never invalidated religion-neutral government action based on speculation about officials’ subjective motivations drawn from campaign-trail statements by a political candidate,” the government’s lawyers wrote in their filing.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Thursday that the administration is “confident that President Trump’s executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe and protect our communities from terrorism.”
The president’s travel order has been one of the most controversial of the Trump administration, as the first entry ban created chaos at airports around the world and prompted major protests here and abroad.
Trump has denounced judicial decisions freezing the ban as unprecedented assaults on his power to fulfill his most important role, keeping the nation safe.
It would take the votes of five of the nine justices to grant the government’s request, and require a finding that the government was likely to prevail on the merits of its argument — and that it would be irreparably harmed if the 4th Circuit’s decision remained in place.