AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President Trump's travel ban is now 0 for 3 in Federal Appeals Courts. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the travel ban today, saying it violates U.S. immigration law. The man - the ban remains on hold. Although, the Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate it.
NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. And Scott, we're calling this the third strike for the administration. Help us understand the status here of the court. What did the 9th Circuit say?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: They rejected the administration's argument that President Trump was acting within his authority when he tried to temporarily ban visitors from six majority-Muslim countries. The court conceded that the president has broad power in this area but added immigration, even for the president, is not a one-person show. In particular, the three-judge panel found that the travel ban runs afoul of a 1965 immigration law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality. The judges said Trump failed to show that closing the door on 180 million people from these six targeted countries would somehow be in America's interest.
Now, today's ruling also says the U.S. can continue to accept refugees. Trump wanted to suspend refugee entries for four months. And it also blocks the present effort to cut down on the number of refugees. He wanted to cut that number in about half this year.
CORNISH: So in terms of the legal arguments, was this a total loss for the administration?
HORSLEY: The court did reinstate one piece of the president's executive order, the piece that allows the administration to review its vetting of would-be visitors from countries around the world and in some cases to tighten up those vetting procedures. That review is what the temporary travel ban was supposed to create space for. So while the Appeals Court is leaving the travel ban on hold, the review can now proceed.
CORNISH: So what's the White House have to say about all of this?
HORSLEY: The administration still says it's confident it will prevail at the Supreme Court even though it's now lost three times in the appeals courts. Even before this latest ruling, the administration had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review this case and also to reinstate the travel ban while the legal arguments are being made. Here's White House Spokesman Sean Spicer.
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SEAN SPICER: I think we can all attest that these are very dangerous times. And we need every available tool at our disposal to prevent terrorists from entering the United States and committing acts of bloodshed and violence. We continue to be confident that the president's executive order to protect this country is fully lawful and ultimately will be upheld by the Supreme Court.
HORSLEY: In its ruling today, though, the 9th Circuit said national security is not just some spell you can chant to justify any old exercise of executive power. The judges pointed to a dissent from a notorious World War II-era case that allowed for Japanese internment camps. And the judges seemed to be saying that just as it was wrong for the U.S. government to tar all people of Japanese ancestry in 1944, it would be wrong today to exclude all visitors from these six targeted countries.
CORNISH: You know, President Trump has not been afraid to lash out at the judiciary (laughter) when he's challenged by the courts. How is that playing out here?
HORSLEY: The president's tweets have sometimes proven to be costly in the courtroom. In its decision today, the 9th Circuit quoted from one Trump tweet about what the president called dangerous countries to illustrate that he was in fact targeting nationality in a way that the court said was illegal.
In another filing with the Supreme Court today, the state of Hawaii also pointed to the president's Twitter feed as it tried to argue that the travel ban is really just a thinly veiled version of the Muslim ban that candidate Trump called for during the campaign, a ban that would perhaps run afoul of the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution. Now, administration lawyers say they're still reviewing the 9th Circuit decision. So far, though, this afternoon, the president has not tweeted about it...
CORNISH: And I noticed you just checked your phone, there (laughter), as you did that.
HORSLEY: ...(Laughter) As of this moment.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks so much.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.