AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Today another legal setback for president Trump's travel ban. His controversial executive order would temporarily ban travelers from six mostly Muslim countries. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that it should be kept on hold. The court said it likely violates the Constitution. Now the Trump administration says it will ask the Supreme Court to take up the case.
Joining us now is NPR's Joel Rose. And Joel, this ruling is 205 pages. Can you break it down for us?
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Right. This is the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia, and they ruled by a vote of 10 to 3 to keep that preliminary injunction in place that was issued by a lower court in Maryland. And the circuit court judges agreed that the travel ban appears to have constitutional problems because it discriminates on the basis of religion.
And I want to quote from Chief Judge Roger Gregory. He did not mince words. He said the president has broad authority to deny entry into the U.S., but that authority is not absolute and that his order, quote, "speaks with vague words of national security but in context drips with religious intolerance."
CORNISH: Now, there were three judges who issued a dissenting opinion. What did they have to say?
ROSE: Right. They think that the majority in this case is overreaching. The dissenters agreed with the administration that the court should have given broader latitude to the White House, should have shown them deference, especially on issues of national security. And they say that this majority opinion sets a bad precedent in terms of looking at candidates and what they say on the stump.
The majority cites page after page worth of past statements by President and candidate Trump talking about blocking Muslims from entering the country. And one of the dissenting judges asks, well, how far back should the courts go when deciding whether an order is constitutional? Do you go back all the way to somebody's business career or all the way to what they said in college?
CORNISH: So what happens now?
ROSE: Well, the administration put out - it has said that they're going to appeal this to the Supreme Court. In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the executive order is constitutional and that the president was well within his rights to try to keep the country safe.
The administration argued that it needed to halt travel from these countries to put in better security protocols because these countries are linked to terrorism and that - the administration said the judges should only look at the language of the executive order, not - which says nothing at all about religion. But the majority of the judges did not agree. They found the government's argument that this is only about national security to be in bad faith and that the real reasoning was a religious animus toward Muslims.
CORNISH: Joel, can you remind us a little bit of the background here, how this current ban was changed to try and appeal to the court.
ROSE: Right. Well, so there were some changes. The number of countries involved was cut from seven to six. There were some other key changes, like religious - all religious language was stripped out of the order. But again, the courts do not seem to be pleased. I mean they - you know, this seems to be heading for a showdown in the Supreme Court.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Joel Rose. Joel, thank you.
ROSE: You're welcome, Audie.
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