Trump Administration finally gets clearance to block most citizens of eight countries from entering US

Developments on Day 319:

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Implementation of Ban While Legal Challenges Continue

The Supreme Court allows the third version of the Trump Administration’s ban on entry into the US by citizens of eight countries — almost all of them mainly-Muslim — to go into effect while legal challenges against it continue.

The court, in a 7-2 decision, urged appeals courts to move swiftly. Meanwhile, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred, along with some groups of people from Venezuela.

There are some exemptions: Iranian students can come on exchanges, though they will be subject to enhanced screening. Somalis will no longer be allowed to emigrate to the US, but may visit with extra screening.

The Supreme Court’s ruling effectively overturned a June compromise, when the judges said travelers with connections to the US — defined as close relatives — could continue to travel despite restrictions in an earlier version of the ban.

In October, federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii blocked major parts of the latest ban while the legal challenges proceeded. Arguments in appeals are scheduled for this week.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the order on Monday “a substantial victory for the safety and security of the American people”. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said, “We are not surprised by today’s Supreme Court decision,” asserting that it is “lawful and essential to protecting our homeland”.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing those challenging the ban, said it would continue to pursue court action.

“President Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret — he has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It’s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims.”

Trump’s initial “Muslim Ban”, issued in an executive order on January 27, barred entry to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Admission of refugees was suspended for 120 days, and of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

The ban was ruled unconstitutional by a series of courts, leading the Administration to issue a new version in March. That version was also blocked, with judges citing religious discrimination and denial of due process and not accepting the White House’s assertion of “national security” grounds.

White House Lawyer: Trump Cannot Be Guilty of Obstruction of Justice

White House lawyer John Dowd — who may or may not have written Donald Trump’s Saturday tweet that may have admitted obstruction of justice — has said a President cannot be found guilty of the offense.

Trump tweeted that he knew then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak before Flynn’s dismissal on February 14 — and just before Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to halt any investigation, according to Comey.

A “senior Administration official” later said that Dowd had drafted the potentially-incriminating message. However, analysts noted that the language used was not that typical of a lawyer and that there had not been any other indication of a Trump tweet written by others — raising the possibility that Dowd was setting himself up as a sacrifice to protect the President.

Dowd insisted on Monday that the “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case”.

Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a regular talking head for Trump on conservative TV outlets, introduced the line this summer. It has been flatly rejected by legal scholars.

Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer overseeing the handling of the Russia investigation, said that the Dershowitz-Dowd theory was is not Trump’s official legal strategy: “It’s interesting as a technical legal issue, but the president’s lawyers intend to present a fact-based defense, not a mere legal defense. That should resolve things, but we all shall see.”

Asked whether Trump agrees that a president cannot obstruct justice, Cobb replied, “I never talk about what the president’s beliefs are or discuss communications between the President and his lawyers.”

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