U.S. has begun fully implementing Trump travel ban: State Dept.

U.S. has begun fully implementing Trump travel ban: State Dept.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department said it began fully implementing President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority countries on Friday, four days after the Supreme Court ruled the order could be enforced while legal appeals continue.

Trump’s order, which calls for “enhancing vetting capabilities” at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, directs the departments of State and Homeland Security to restrict the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries – Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen – as well as from Venezuela and North Korea.

The State Department said in a statement on Friday that no visas would be revoked under the new vetting procedures. It said the restrictions were not intended to be permanent and could be lifted as “countries work with the U.S. government to ensure the safety of Americans.”

Trump promised as a candidate to impose “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and his effort to implement a travel ban has run into repeated legal challenges since he first announced it a week after taking office.

The current ban is the third version from the administration. Lower courts allowed the provisions covering North Korea and Venezuela to go into effect.

Challenges continue for the six predominantly Muslim countries, charging that the ban discriminates on the basis of religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution and is not permissible under immigration laws.

The Supreme Court on Monday granted the administration’s request to lift two injunctions that partially blocked the ban. The decision allows the restrictions to go into force, even as legal challenges continue in lower courts. Two liberal justices dissented.

(Reporting by David Alexander)

Pivotal Justice Kennedy poses tough questions in gay wedding case

Pivotal Justice Kennedy poses tough questions in gay wedding case

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared closely divided with likely pivotal vote Justice Anthony Kennedy posing tough questions about a Christian baker’s refusal to make a wedding cake for a gay couple but also questioning whether a Colorado civil rights commission that ruled on the issue was biased against religion.

The nine justices heard an intense, extended 80-minute oral argument in the major case on whether certain businesses can refuse service to gay couples if they oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

The case concerns an appeal by Jack Phillips, a baker who runs Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, of a state court ruling that his refusal to make a cake for gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012 on the basis of his religious beliefs violated a Colorado anti-discrimination law.

Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sides with the court’s four liberals in major cases, raised concerns about issuing a ruling siding with the baker that would give a green light to discrimination against gay people.

The court’s four liberals would likely side with him on that point, with several justices citing a wide range of other creative professionals, including makeup artists and florists, who could deny service to gay customers if the baker wins.

In one of the biggest cases of the conservative-majority court’s nine-month term, the justices must decide whether the baker’s action was constitutionally protected.

Phillips, represented by the conservative Christian advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, contends that the Colorado law violated his rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The Supreme Court arguments focused on his free speech claim, based on the idea that creating a custom cake is a form of free expression.

Mullins and Craig call the baker’s refusal a simple case of unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation. Colorado law bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

Kennedy, a long-term champion of gay rights, mentioned the possibility of a baker putting a sign in his window saying he would not make cakes for gay weddings, wondering if that would be “an affront to the gay community.”

But citing comments made by a commissioner on the state civil rights panel that ruled against the baker, Kennedy said there was evidence of “hostility to religion” and questioned whether that panel’s decision should be allowed to stand.

“Tolerance is essential in a free society. Tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual,” Kennedy said. But the commission was not “tolerant or respectful” of Phillips, he added.

The commissioner, unnamed in court papers, said at a 2014 hearing that “freedom of religion, and religion, has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history.” The commissioner added that freedom of religion “is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use … to use their religion to hurt others.”

It was unclear to what extent Kennedy’s criticism of the commissioner would dictate how he votes in the case.

The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in a landmark 2015 ruling written by the 81-year-old Kennedy, one of the court’s five conservatives. He has joined the court’s four liberals in major decisions on issues such as abortion and gay rights, but also is a strong proponent of free speech rights. [L2N1LU1W9]

Mullins and Craig are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has argued that Phillips’ legal team is advocating for a “license to discriminate” that could have broad repercussions beyond gay rights.

Several of the justices asked questions that suggested they are concerned about how far a ruling in favor of the baker might extend. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan wondered about whether a hairstylist, chef or a makeup artist could refuse service, claiming their services are also speech protected by the Constitution. “Why is there no speech in creating a wonderful hairdo?” Kagan asked.

Kennedy asked U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the Trump administration lawyer supporting the baker, what would happen if the court rules for the baker and then bakers nationwide then started receiving requests to not bake cakes for gay weddings. “Would the government feel vindicated?” Kennedy asked.

Conservative members of the court, including Chief Justice John Roberts, appeared more sympathetic to the baker.

‘LOVE WINS’

Hundreds of demonstrators on both sides of the dispute rallied outside the white marble courthouse. Supporters of Phillips waved signs that read, “We got your back Jack.” As Mullins and Craig made their way into the courthouse, the two men led their supporters in chants of “Love Wins.”

After the arguments, Phillips told reporters that the backlash against his business after his refusal has included death threats and harassment, adding, “We are struggling just to make ends meet and keep the shop afloat.”

“It’s hard to believe that the government is forcing me choose between providing for my family and my employees, and violating my relationship with God,” Phillips said.

Mullins told reporters the couple’s snub by Phillips made them feel mortified and humiliated, like “second-class citizens in our society.”

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that Phillips had violated anti-discrimination law and ordered him to take remedial measures including staff training and the filing of quarterly compliance reports. The baker lost appeals in state courts before asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Supreme Court lets Trump’s latest travel ban go into full effect

Supreme Court lets Trump's latest travel ban go into full effect

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his latest travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries to go into full effect even as legal challenges continue in lower courts.

The nine-member court, with two liberal justices dissenting, granted his administration’s request to lift two injunctions imposed by lower courts that had partially blocked the ban, which is the third version of a contentious policy that Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January.

The high court’s action means that the ban will now go fully into effect for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seeking to enter the United States. The Republican president has said the travel ban is needed to protect the United States from terrorism by Islamic militants.

In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the Supreme Court’s action “a substantial victory for the safety and security of the American people.” Sessions said the Trump administration was heartened that a clear majority of the justices “allowed the president’s lawful proclamation protecting our country’s national security to go into full effect.”

The ban was challenged in separate lawsuits by the state of Hawaii and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both sets of challengers said the latest ban, like the earlier ones, discriminates against Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution and is not permissible under immigration laws.

Trump had promised as a candidate to impose “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Last week he shared on Twitter anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British party leader.

“President Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret – he has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter,” ACLU lawyer Omar Jadwat said.

“It’s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims. We continue to stand for freedom, equality and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones,” Jadwat added.

Lower courts had previously limited the scope of the ban to people without either certain family connections to the United States or formal relationships with U.S.-based entities such as universities and resettlement agencies.

Trump’s ban also covers people from North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela, but the lower courts had already allowed those provisions to go into effect.

The high court said in two similar one-page orders that lower court rulings that partly blocked the latest ban should be put on hold while federal appeals courts in San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia weigh the cases. Both courts are due to hear arguments in those cases this week.

The Supreme Court said the ban will remain in effect regardless of what the appeals courts rule, at least until the justices ultimately decide whether to take up the issue on the merits, which they are highly likely to do. The court’s order said the appeals courts should decide the cases “with appropriate dispatch.”

“We agree a speedy resolution is needed for the sake of our universities, our businesses and most of all, for people marginalized by this unlawful order,” Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have denied the administration’s request.

STRONG SIGNAL

Monday’s action sent a strong signal that the court is likely to uphold the ban on the merits when the case likely returns to the justices in the coming months.

There are some exceptions to the ban. Certain people from each targeted country can still apply for a visa for tourism, business or education purposes, and any applicant can ask for an individual waiver.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the merits of Hawaii’s challenge on Wednesday in Seattle. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will arguments on the merits of case spearheaded by the ACLU on Friday in Richmond.

Trump issued his first travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries in January, then issued a revised one in March after the first was blocked by federal courts. The second one expired in September after a long court fight and was replaced with the present version.

The Trump administration said the president put the latest restrictions in place after a worldwide review of the ability of each country in the world to issue reliable passports and share data with the United States.

The administration argues that a president has broad authority to decide who can come into the United States, but detractors say the expanded ban violates a law forbidding the government from discriminating based on nationality when issuing immigrant visas.

The administration has said the ban is not discriminatory and pointed out that many Muslim-majority countries are unaffected by it.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Roberta Rampton aboard Air Force One and Yasmeen Abutaleb in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

Top court weighs baker’s refusal to make cake for gay couple

Top court weighs baker's refusal to make cake for gay couple

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing arguments in a major case on whether certain businesses can refuse service to gay couples if they oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds in a dispute involving a conservative Christian baker in Colorado who declined to make a wedding cake for two men.

The nine justices opened a scheduled hour of arguments in an appeal brought by Jack Phillips, a baker who runs Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, of a state court ruling that his refusal violated a Colorado anti-discrimination law.

In one of the biggest cases of the conservative-majority court’s nine-month term, the justices must decide whether the baker’s action was constitutionally protected, meaning he can avoid punishment under the Colorado law.

Phillips contends that law violated his rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The Supreme Court arguments will focus on his free speech claim, based on the idea that creating a custom cake is a form of free expression.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, call the baker’s refusal a simple case of unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in a landmark 2015 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, one of the court’s five conservatives. The 81-year-old Kennedy, who has joined the court’s four liberals in major decisions on issues such as abortion and gay rights, could cast the deciding vote. Kennedy also is a strong proponent of free speech rights.

A ruling favoring Phillips could open the door for businesses that offer creative services to spurn gay couples by invoking religious beliefs, as some wedding photographers, florists and others already have done. Conservatives have filed other lawsuits also seeking to limit the reach of the 2015 gay marriage ruling.

Hundreds of demonstrators on both sides of the dispute rallied outside the white marble courthouse. Supporters of Phillips waved signs that read, “We got your back Jack.” As Mullins and Craig made their way into the courthouse, the two men led their supporters in chants of “Love Wins.”

The case highlights tensions between gay rights proponents and conservative Christians who oppose same-sex marriage, as illustrated in comments made by demonstrators on Tuesday.

‘NOT HARMING OTHERS’

“Religious liberty is the most important right we have been given in the Constitution, and this case exemplifies it,” said Paula Oas, 64, a Maryland resident. “I believe Jack is not harming others.”

Sherrill Fields, 67, a lesbian Virginia resident, said she feared that if the court sides with the baker, different types of businesses will turn away gay customers.

“This kind of thing will come out of the woodwork,” Fields said. “People and businesses of all sorts will deny us service. Restaurants, hairdressers, doctors, tow truck drivers, anybody that provides a service.”

The legal fight broke out in 2012 when Phillips told Mullins and Craig that due to his Christian beliefs he would not be able to make a cake to celebrate their wedding.

The two men married in Massachusetts but wanted to celebrate their nuptials with friends in Colorado. At the time, Colorado allowed civil unions but not marriage between same-sex couples.

The couple turned to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a complaint on their behalf, saying Phillips had violated Colorado state law barring businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that Phillips had violated the law and ordered him to take remedial measures including staff training and the filing of quarterly compliance reports. In August 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against Phillips.

The Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the case, prompting Phillips to appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLU said Phillips’ legal team at the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom is advocating for a “license to discriminate” that could have broad repercussions beyond gay rights.

“I can’t emphasize enough how far sweeping the argument is both in terms of what it is saying about the Constitution and who will be affected,” ACLU lawyer Louise Melling said.

Phillips’ lawyers said creative professionals should not be forced to engage in expression that goes against their conscience.

“If the court were to say it could force someone like Jack … to be coerced, then it has the power to force anyone of us to speak those same messages and to violate our convictions,” Phillips’ attorney Kristen Waggoner said.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Supreme Court’s cake case pits gay rights versus Christian faith

Supreme Court's cake case pits gay rights versus Christian faith

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When conservative Christian baker Jack Phillips in 2012 politely but firmly told Colorado gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig he would not make them a cake to celebrate their wedding, it triggered a chain of events that will climax on Tuesday in highly anticipated U.S. Supreme Court arguments.

Phillips contends the U.S. Constitution’s free speech guarantees protect him from making a cake that would violate his religious beliefs against gay marriage. To Mullins and Craig, the baker’s refusal represented a simple case of unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In one of the biggest cases of the conservative-majority court’s nine-month term, the justices — just two years after legalizing gay marriage — must decide whether Phillips’ action was constitutionally protected and he can avoid punishment for violating Colorado anti-discrimination law.

A ruling favoring Phillips could open the door for certain businesses to spurn gay couples by invoking religious beliefs, as some wedding photographers, florists and others already have done.

The brief encounter at Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood left Mullins and Craig distraught. They filed a successful complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the first step in the five-year-old legal battle that the nine justices will resolve in a ruling due by the end of June.

The baker’s lawyers argue that because his cakes are artistic endeavors, guarantees of freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protect Phillips from being forced to make baked creations that express a message he opposes on religious grounds.

Mullins and Craig were planning their wedding in Massachusetts that September and wanted the cake for a reception to be held in Colorado, where gay marriage was not yet legal. Craig’s mother witnessed the tense exchange, which he said made it harder for him to bear.

“I ended up starting to cry because I felt really bad and overwhelmed that my mom had to see me go through this. I guess it was the feeling of helplessness,” Craig said in an interview.

Phillips said he offered to sell the couple other products in his store but was adamant that his religious beliefs compelled him to draw a line when it comes to certain issues.

‘I SERVE EVERYBODY’

“Everybody that comes in my store is welcome in my store,” Phillips said in an interview. “I serve everybody that comes in and I create products for many events, just not all events.”

Based on his Christian beliefs, Phillips said he also refuses to make Halloween cakes as well as baked goods “that denigrate other people.”

The civil rights commission found that Phillips violated state anti-discrimination law that bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. It ordered him to take remedial measures including staff training and the filing of quarterly compliance reports.

Phillips said he found the penalty “deeply offensive” in part because until recently his mother was one of his employees.

“I have to tell my mom, ‘Everything you have taught me doesn’t count here,'” Phillips said.

In 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against Phillips. The Colorado Supreme Court subsequently denied his appeal, prompting Phillips to take the case to the top U.S. court.

Evangelical Christians are an important part of President Donald Trump’s political base, and his administration filed a brief in support of Phillips.

The case puts 81-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy, one of the court’s five conservative, in the spotlight. Kennedy, a potential deciding vote in a 5-4 ruling, has joined the court’s liberals in major decisions on issues such as abortion and gay rights. He authored the court’s landmark 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But Kennedy is also a strong proponent of free speech rights.

CULTURAL FLASHPOINT

The case has become a cultural flashpoint in the United States that underscores the tensions between gay rights proponents and conservative Christians.

National advocacy groups have jumped in on both sides. Mullins and Craig are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Phillips is represented by the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Similar cases are being litigated in other U.S. courts, and other countries also are confronting the issue. In April, Britain’s Supreme Court will consider whether a Christian-run bakery in Northern Ireland can refuse to make a cake backing gay rights.

In this case and others involving such issues as abortion, union dues and campaign funding, conservatives have relied on free speech arguments before the Supreme Court, but the issue of religious liberty still looms large.

“This is about will the U.S. Supreme Court decide that the fundamental freedoms and liberties that Americans have taken for granted for 200 years are still valid,” said Phillips’ lawyer, Kristen Waggoner.

The ACLU said a ruling favoring Phillips could lead to other efforts to skirt anti-discrimination laws.

“They are asking for a constitutional right to discriminate,” ACLU lawyer Louise Melling said. “This is not a case about a cake. It is a case about a very radical proposition.”

Mullins and Craig did get to celebrate their marriage with a cake made by another bakery. Phillips will once again encounter them on Tuesday, this time in the grand marble halls of the Supreme Court.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Hawaii, ACLU ask U.S. top court not to allow full Trump travel ban

Hawaii, ACLU ask U.S. top court not to allow full Trump travel ban

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The state of Hawaii and the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to allow President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban that would bar entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries to go into full effect after it was partially blocked by lower courts.

Lawyers for the Democratic-governed state and the civil liberties group, pursuing separate legal challenges to the ban, were responding to the Trump administration’s request last week that the conservative-majority court allow the ban to go into effect completely while litigation over the policy continues.

Both sets of challengers said the latest ban, Trump’s third, discriminates against Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution and is not permissible under immigration laws.

The Republican president has said the travel ban is needed to protect the United States from terrorism by Muslim militants. As a candidate, Trump had promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

In the ACLU court filing, its lawyers said the administrative process that led to the latest ban “does not wipe away the history of the president’s efforts to ban Muslims, especially given the remarkable similarity between the current ban and its predecessors.”

On Nov. 13, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the ban to go partly into effect while the litigation continued, lifting part of a Hawaii-based district court judge’s nationwide injunction.

Separately, a judge in Maryland partly blocked the ban on similar lines in the case spearheaded by the ACLU.

The Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in both cases. The high court could act at any time.

Whatever the Supreme Court decides, the two cases will continue in lower courts. The 9th Circuit and the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both are due to hear oral arguments on the merits of the challenges next week.

Trump’s ban was announced on Sept. 24 and replaced two previous versions that had been impeded by federal courts.

The ban currently applies to people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad who do not have connections to the United States. Those with certain family relationships and other formal connections to the United States, such as through a university, can enter the country.

The ban also covers people from North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela, and lower courts have allowed those provisions to go into effect.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Supreme Court weighs major digital privacy case

U.S. Supreme Court weighs major digital privacy case

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday takes up a major test of privacy rights in the digital age as it weighs whether police must obtain warrants to get data on the past locations of criminal suspects using cellphone data from wireless providers.

The justices at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT) are due to hear an appeal by a man named Timothy Carpenter convicted in a series of armed robberies in Ohio and Michigan with the help of past cellphone location data that linked him to the crime locations. His American Civil Liberties Union lawyers argue that without a court-issued warrant such data amounts to an unreasonable search and seizure under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

Law enforcement authorities routinely request and receive this information from wireless providers during criminal investigations as they try to link a suspect to a crime.

Police helped establish that Carpenter was near the scene of the robberies of Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores by securing from his cellphone carrier his past “cell site location information” tracking which cellphone towers had relayed his calls.

The legal fight has raised questions about the degree to which companies protect their customers’ privacy rights. The big four wireless carriers, Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, T-Mobile US Inc and Sprint Corp, receive tens of thousands of these requests annually from law enforcement.

Verizon was the only one of those four companies to tell the Supreme Court that it favors strong privacy protections for its customers, with the other three sitting on the sidelines.

There is growing scrutiny of the surveillance practices of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies amid concern among lawmakers across the political spectrum about civil liberties and authorities evading warrant requirements.

The Supreme Court twice in recent years has ruled on major cases concerning how criminal law applies to new technology, both times ruling against law enforcement. In 2012, the court held that a warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. Two years later, the court said police need a warrant to search a cellphone seized during an arrest.

Carpenter’s bid to suppress the evidence failed and he was convicted of six robbery counts. On appeal, the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his convictions, finding that no warrant was required for the cellphone data.

The ACLU said in court papers that police need “probable cause,” and therefore a warrant, in order to meet Fourth Amendment requirements.

Based on a provision of a 1986 federal law called the Stored Communications Act, the Justice Department said probable cause is not needed to obtain customer records. Instead, it argues, prosecutors must show only that there are “reasonable grounds” for the records to be provided and that they are “relevant and material” to an investigation.

President Donald Trump’s administration said in court papers the government has a “compelling interest” in acquiring the data without a warrant because the information is particularly useful at the early stages of a criminal investigation.

Civil liberties groups said the 1986 law did not anticipate the way mobile devices now contain a wealth of data on each user.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

White House asks Supreme Court to allow full travel ban

White House asks Supreme Court to allow full travel ban

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to allow President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban to take full effect after an appeals court in California ruled last week that only parts of it could be enacted.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 13 partially granted a Trump administration request to block at least temporarily a judge’s ruling that had put the new ban on hold. It ruled the government could bar entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries with no connections to the United States.

Trump’s ban was announced on Sept. 24 and replaced two previous versions that had been impeded by federal courts.

The administration’s appeal to the top U.S. court argued that the latest travel ban differed from the previous orders “both in process and in substance” and that the differences showed it “is based on national-security and foreign-affairs objectives, not religious animus.”

It also argued that even if the 9th Circuit ruled to uphold the partial ban, the Supreme Court was likely to overturn that decision as it had “the last time courts barred the President from enforcing entry restrictions on certain foreign nationals in the interest of national security.”

Last week’s appeals court ruling meant the ban would only apply to people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad who did not have connections to the United States.

Those connections are defined as family relationships and “formal, documented” relationships with U.S.-based entities such as universities and resettlement agencies. Those with family relationships that would allow entry include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States.

The state of Hawaii, which sued to block the restrictions, argued that federal immigration law did not give Trump the authority to impose them on six of those countries. The lawsuit did not challenge restrictions toward people from the two other countries listed in Trump’s ban, North Korea and Venezuela.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu ruled last month that Hawaii was likely to succeed with its argument.

Trump issued his first travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries in January, just a week after he took office, and then issued a revised one after the first was blocked by the courts. The second one expired in September after a long court fight and was replaced with another revised version.

Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the United States from attacks by Islamist militants. As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Critics of the travel ban in its various iterations call it a “Muslim ban” that violates the U.S. Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion.

The 9th Circuit is due to hear oral arguments in the case on Dec. 6. In a parallel case from Maryland, a judge also ruled against the Trump administration and partially blocked the ban from going into effect.

An appeal in the Maryland case is being heard on Dec. 8 by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The Maryland case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents several advocacy groups, including the International Refugee Assistance Project.

(Reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Trump adds five conservatives to list of possible Supreme Court picks

Trump adds five conservatives to list of possible Supreme Court picks

By James Oliphant and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a move certain to please conservatives, President Donald Trump on Friday added five names to his list of candidates for a prospective U.S. Supreme Court vacancy as he presses ahead with a campaign to move the federal judiciary to the right.

Two of them are appellate judges who were nominated by Trump earlier this year and confirmed by the Senate: Amy Coney Barrett and Kevin Newsom. Another, Brett Kavanaugh, sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, long viewed as a stepping-stone to the high court.

The others were Britt Grant, a Georgia Supreme Court justice, and Patrick Wyrick, a Oklahoma Supreme Court justice.

There is no current vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court but three justices are 79 or older.

During his presidential campaign last year, Trump identified 20 conservative candidates for the Supreme Court. Upon taking office, he named Neil Gorsuch to the court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, restoring the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate in April and has established himself as one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices.

Speaking at a Federalist Society conference of conservative legal advocates, White House Counsel Donald McGahn said Trump is “very committed” to appointing judges who are “committed originalists and textualists,” referring to a legal philosophy that relies on the actual wording of laws and the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution.

“They all have paper trails. They all are sitting judges. There is nothing unknown about them. What you see is what you get,” McGahn said.

The five jurists, all with strong conservative credentials, were added to the list with input from conservative leaders, and should another seat on the court open up, Trump will nominate a candidate from the updated list of 25, the White House said.

Leonard Leo, an advisor to the president on Supreme Court nominations, said Trump thought it was time to refresh the original list. “When you’re committed to picking from a list you want to make sure it’s as complete as possible,” Leo said in an interview.

Kavanaugh, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2006 by Republican former President George W. Bush, served as a White House counsel under Bush and worked as an assistant to Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Democratic former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Grant and Wyrick both joined state challenges to the Affordable Care Act, Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, and Obama regulations aimed at reducing emissions from coal-burning power plants, said Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal advocacy group.

KENNEDY IS PIVOTAL JUSTICE

The court currently consists of five conservatives and four liberals, with conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy sometimes joining with the liberals on high-profile issues such as gay rights and abortion.

At 81, Kennedy is the second-oldest justice on the court behind liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 84, and some former Kennedy clerks have said he is considering retirement. Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer is 79.

Should any of those step down, Trump would get a historic opportunity to shape the court in a more conservative direction for decades to come. Supreme Court appointments are lifetime jobs.

Conservatives criticize the federal judiciary as too liberal, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the same conference lashed out at “activist judges.”

Trump already has taken steps to make the federal judiciary more conservative, with 14 judicial appointees already confirmed by the Senate and more in the pipeline.

Catherine Glenn Foster, president of the anti-abortion advocacy group Americans United for Life, said she was pleased with the new selections. “From their known records they tend to be strong on recognizing the protections for life,” she said in an interview.

On Friday, Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said she would support her party’s Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by several women of unwanted sexual contact, because of the importance of keeping the Senate under Republican control should another Supreme Court vacancy arise.

(Reporting by James Oliphant and Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Eric Beech; Editing by Will Dunham)