WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump ramped up the rhetoric on Tuesday (Feb 7) over the threat of militant attacks facing the United States, hours before a key hearing on the travel ban he decreed in the name of national security.
|US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh (R) of Chester County, Pennsylvania, during a meeting with county sheriffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)|
Hosting a group of American sheriffs at the White House, Trump hammered home the rationale for his executive order closing US borders to refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations as "common sense."
The legal showdown touched off on Friday, when a federal judge suspended Trump's decree nationwide, now rests with a federal court of appeals in San Francisco that has set a hearing for 3.00pm (7.00am Singapore time Wednesday).
No ruling is expected on Tuesday, a court spokesman said, adding that it would likely come later this week.
Appearing to lay the groundwork for a setback, the White House sought to play down the significance of the upcoming ruling.
"All that's at issue tonight is the hearing is an interim decision on whether the president's order is enforced or not until the case is heard on the actual merits of the order," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.
"That's why I think we feel confident."
Is the Republican president - who has lashed out at the federal judge who halted his measure, letting banned travelers trickle back in - prepared to receive an adverse ruling?
"Of course the president respects the (judiciary) branch, but the president has the discretion to do what is necessary to keep the country safe," Spicer said.
Trump has dismissed James Robart as a "so-called" judge - a slur that drew criticism from his own Republican camp - and sought to pin blame on him, and the courts in general, for potential future attacks on US soil.
"Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!" he tweeted on Sunday.
Trump's January 27 decree had barred entry to all refugees for 120 days, and to travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, triggering chaos at US airports and worldwide condemnation.
The president has acknowledged that the high-stakes legal battle may well end up before the Supreme Court - while voicing hope it would not come to that.
The top court would need to weigh in by a majority of five on the eight-seat bench to overturn an appeal court ruling - a scenario far from guaranteed with a short-handed bench currently evenly split between four conservatives and four liberals.
That could change if Trump's conservative nominee to fill in the vacant seat, Neil Gorsuch, is confirmed by the Senate.
With his most emblematic measure to date facing a wall of judicial opposition - challenged in a lawsuit backed by more than 120 tech giants, leading rights group and 16 US states - Trump reverted to his now-familiar strategy of lashing out at the media.
"I understand the total dishonesty of the media, better than anybody and I let people know it," Trump declared.
On Monday, he accused "dishonest" news outfits of deliberately downplaying the terror threat that his administration cites to justify its ban, saying they purposefully failed to report on past jihadist atrocities.
The White House later distributed a list of 78 attacks it said "have not received the media attention they deserved."
The list includes numerous atrocities that dominated global headlines for days - from the Paris attacks of Nov 13, 2015 to the Nice truck-attack of Jun 14, 2016 or the San Bernardino mass shooting in California in December 2015.
Trump's immigration order - which initially appeared to enjoy widespread support - is now opposed by a majority of Americans: The split is 53-47 per cent according to a CNN poll, 51-45 per cent according to a CBS poll.
The Republican president has dismissed the polls as lies. "Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election," he tweeted on Monday. "Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting."
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