"He has made crystal clear that Muslims in this country are great Americans and there are many, many Muslim countries who love this country and he has praised Islam as one of the great countries of the world", Francisco said. The decision effectively overturned a compromise in place since last June, when the court said travelers with connections to the United States could continue to travel here notwithstanding restrictions in an earlier version of the ban.
In the court's first full-blown consideration of a Trump order, the conservative justices who make up the court's majority seemed unwilling to hem in a president who has invoked national security to justify restrictions on who can or cannot step on US soil.
Francisco sounded Trumpian at points, calling the ban "the most detailed proclamation ever issued in American history".
When it comes to the security of the USA, judges are likely to side with the president and commander-in-chief because that role requires daily communication with intelligence chiefs and foreign leaders for the protection of every American.
Will swing voter Kennedy uphold Trump's travel...
The court's outnumbered liberals expressed doubts about the president's power to ban travelers indefinitely despite existing congressional law and said even his tweets on the subject can be used to decipher his motives. Justice Elena Kagan was the only one on the left who raised pointed questions of Katyal; given her views on administrative law and the breadth of the immigration statute here, she's "gettable" for some sort of technical compromise.
That list included Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen - with six of those eight being majority-Muslim. "It has been suggested in one of the briefs that we read 1182 (f) to allow the president to suspend entry but only for a period of time long enough for Congress to say yea or nay".
"Well, well, well, no, Justice Kennedy, that's not our argument", Katyal said. "It hurts me because it is singling out and demeaning Muslims due to their faith".
JUSTICE KAGAN: - and says all kinds of denigrating comments about Jews and provokes a lot of resentment and hatred over the course of a campaign and in his presidency and, in the course of that, asks his staff or his cabinet members to issue ... recommendations so that he can issue a proclamation of this kind, and they dot all the i's and they cross all the t's. Wednesday was the first time they took it up in open court.
The justices struggled to determine whether the President's statements towards Muslims on the campaign trail were relevant to the case or qualified as animus.
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Let's suppose that the intelligence agencies go to the President and say, we have 100 percent solid information that on a particular day 20 nationals from Syria are going to enter the United States with chemical and biological weapons.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked what would happen if a mayoral candidate had made "vituperative, hateful statements" and then two days after taking office acts on "those hateful statements".
The Democratic Party has moreover acquiesced to all of the most reactionary elements of Trump's anti-immigrant policy, including the construction of a "wall" along the Mexico border and the permanent detention of immigrants who seek to cross the border, and the planned deportation of DACA recipients.
Nevertheless, Trump's case could be bolstered by the lifting of the ban on travelers from Chad on April 10. Justice Neil Gorsuch seems ready to join him (presumably Justice Clarence Thomas too), while Justice Samuel Alito was clearly with the government on the merits.
Mr. Trump's original order, issued a week after he took office, was a broad ban on entry from seven majority-Muslim countries identified by Congress and the Obama administration as posing a special danger in terms of travel.
Normally the court should review the specifics of just the third travel ban version. Lower courts ruled that Trump's ban was illegal because of what they called an implicit bias against Muslims, violating the US Constitution.
The supreme court likely won't issue a ruling on the case for at least a couple of months, but on Wednesday, the justices peppered the lawyers on opposing sides with a series of hypothetical situations that distilled the gnarly debate into simple yes-or-no questions.
Josh Blackman, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, believes the justices will find that the travel ban passes legal muster.
They also seemed to be very aware of the deep divisions in the country over the unorthodox president and an at-times dysfunctional Congress.