DOJ to appeal latest setback for Trump travel ban

The Justice Department has filed a "notice of appeal" in the Maryland case.

March 17, 2017, 10:27 PM

— -- The Justice Department announced today it will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that blocked federal agencies from enforcing certain parts of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.

"The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the Maryland federal district court’s ruling, and looks forward to defending the President’s Executive Order seeking to protect our Nation’s security,” a DOJ spokesperson told ABC News.

The move comes just one day after the federal judge in Maryland issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on one part of Trump's revised ban -- the section that imposes the 90-day pause on the issuance of visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries included in the executive order. U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang ruled that the plaintiffs had standing and a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims, including claims that the executive order discriminated on the basis of religion.

The nationwide preliminary injunction will remain in place indefinitely until it is either lifted by the Maryland judge or overturned by a higher court. The Trump administration is appealing the Maryland decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

One day before the ruling in Maryland, a federal judge in Hawaii, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, made a more sweeping decision to freeze the president’s executive order, saying there was “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation" of the revised order and its predecessor.

Watson’s ruling on Wednesday prevented core provisions of the executive order, affecting refugees and citizens of the six predominantly Muslim countries, from going into effect the next day.

At a rally in Nashville Wednesday night, President Trump slammed the decision as “an unprecedented judicial overreach.”

The Department of Justice said in a statement it "strongly disagrees with the federal district court's ruling, which is flawed both in reasoning and in scope. The President's Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation's security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts."

In arguing for the restraining order, the state of Hawaii alleged that the new executive order "began life as a Muslim ban," and that the statements of President Trump and his advisers "provide direct evidence of the Executive Order’s discriminatory motivations."

"The March 6, 2017, Executive Order was motivated by animus and a desire to discriminate on the basis of religion and/or national origin, nationality, or alienage," the state contended.

The state of Hawaii also argued the ban would harm its tourism industry, as well as its ability to recruit foreign students and workers.

Meanwhile, the federal judge in Seattle who last month issued the nationwide restraining order against the first iteration of Trump's travel ban tonight declined to issue a ruling on the second, instead staying motions before him for injunctions in two cases challenging the revised travel ban.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart issued nearly identical orders in the two cases, determining that the Hawaii nationwide temporary restraining order issued Wednesday had effectively given the plaintiffs in the Washington cases everything they'd asked for.

The Trump administration had argued in the Hawaii case that the plaintiffs were trying "to impugn the order using campaign statements” and that the court should not look beyond the stated purpose of the revised order, which has been substantially revised to exempt legal residents and current visa holders.

The administration asserted that statements made during the campaign by Trump and his surrogates were "irrelevant" and urged the judge not to look for "secret motives" of government officials in reaching his decision.

Watson, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama in 2012, issued a thorough rebuke of the administration's position.

"The remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry," Watson wrote, referencing then-candidate Trump's call for "a complete shutdown" of Muslim immigration as well as recent comments by Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller that the new order would result in "the same basic policy outcome for the country" as the first, now revoked, order.

"These plainly worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose," Watson wrote. "Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude … that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, 'secondary to a religious objective' of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims."

Watson's order capped off a whirlwind day of court hearings around the country, with plaintiffs in both Maryland and Washington State also seeking to block the ban before it was set to take effect Thursday.

The attorney general of Washington State, Bob Ferguson, whose lawsuit resulted in the injunction preventing implementation of the first version of the travel ban, on Wednesday night praised the Hawaii order as "fantastic news."

"Today’s rapidly evolving events show the strength of our growing coalition, from the eastern seaboard to the Hawaiian islands,” Ferguson wrote on Twitter.

ABC News' Lauren Pearle, Sarah Shales and Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

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