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Supreme Court Will Rule On Trump's Travel Ban In The Fall


We will have to wait until the fall, but yes, the Supreme Court will rule on President Trump's travel ban. For now, the president is celebrating what he sees as a victory. That's because the high court has allowed parts of the ban to be enforced. So if you're a traveler from one of the six Muslim-majority countries named in this ban and you don't have, quote, "bona fide" ties to the U.S., you could be turned away at the border. That goes against what lower courts had ruled.

Carrie Severino has been following this closely. She is chief counsel for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. She joins us in our studios in Washington. Thanks so much for coming in this morning.

CARRIE SEVERINO: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Elsewhere in the program, we heard from the state attorney general in Hawaii, Douglas Chin. And he played down the idea that this is a victory for the Trump administration. Let's listen.

DOUGLAS CHIN: I think what you have is six justices that are saying that if you do have a connection to the United States, that you are allowed to come into the country, notwithstanding any travel ban that's been put forward by the U.S.

MARTIN: So he's saying that it's a victory for his side, in part, because some people, now, from those countries, will be allowed to come to the U.S., at least in this temporary status. Do you see it that way?

SEVERINO: Well, no. I think the lower - what this really showed is a unanimous Supreme Court - three justices would have gone even farther - but a unanimous Supreme Court said that the lower court orders went way too far on this. The 9th Circuit and the 4th Circuit opinions, I think, were revealed by the Supreme Court to have been based not so much on the legal standards, which do give the president a lot of leeway in national security areas. It's a very high-order level-of-importance issue, of course, for the president and his duties.

The Supreme Court recognized that the lower courts didn't even - they didn't give that sufficient credit, was what the order seemed to say. And also, that they went far beyond the case at hand. They didn't just say, we're going to issue a stay as to the people in this case or people like them, which is what the Supreme Court pared it back to. They blocked the order altogether. That is something that no justice in the Supreme Court said was allowable. And that really, I think, was a rebuke to these lower courts for what I would say is a very politicized ruling.

At this point, we have a court that, I think, is going to look at it and apply the same legal standards that they ought to apply to any president's order. Now, I don't know what that means in October in terms of the ultimate result. But in the meantime, I think it does show that the president has a lot of leeway in national security matters.

MARTIN: Although, states who had filed suit said that they had standing to do so. Their harm they suffered was because foreign students couldn't come, those teachers couldn't come, and now they can. So it is a victory for that side and...

SEVERINO: It's not now they can. They actually - the stay has been in place throughout. So they always, actually, were able to continue to do so under the stays that the 4th Circuit and the 9th Circuit had issued. So what's different now, is that now the order has been allowed to go into effect as of the Supreme Court's statement.

MARTIN: So let me ask you about the substance of this case. The argument against the ban centers around this idea of intent - right? - that President Trump, by his own admission, has called over and over for a ban on Muslims coming into this country. In fact, in a tweet not that long ago, he railed against his own Justice department for - his words - watering down the original travel ban. Do you think the court should just ignore the president's words on this?

SEVERINO: I think the court should apply the standards they apply to all executive orders. And those standards don't mean we look into the president's tweeting, we look to the president's campaign statements that - six, 12 months ago even...

MARTIN: You think those should not be relevant here?

SEVERINO: That's not what the court - I'm saying this is - that's the legal standards. What has happened in the courts below is that they applied a different legal standard than has been applied historically to other presidential orders. They should apply - they should look at the order and what the order actually says, in much the same way that, when they're looking at legislation, they need to actually look at what the law is doing. What is the law requiring? It is that, within the Constitution or consistent with other laws - not trying to get into the minds and mind reading on the legislators' intent. The same process applies here.

It's not a matter of, let's try to figure out what Donald Trump has in his heart of hearts. It's, well, what does the order actually say? And is this order within the president's authority? And that's something that the court has the legal requirement to look at, not all those other things.

MARTIN: You don't see a difference, then, between any kind of contradiction, between what the president has said and the four corners of the executive order?

SEVERINO: Whether there's a contradiction or not isn't actually for the court to look at. They're not supposed to be mining all of these other areas and say, oh, well, he said this once here, and he says this here. Their job is actually to apply the order because what will become the law in the policy of the country is actually what's in the order. It's not the president's tweet. It's not the president's campaign statements, etc.

So the the court is actually interpreting the law. And that's what should be enforced and will be enforced by immigration officials, etc. Not - they're not looking at the president's tweets and saying, well, what should we do next? They're looking at the actual executive order. And that's what the courts need to look at as well.

MARTIN: Are you confident the court will see it that way come fall when they hear oral arguments?

SEVERINO: Well, I think the decision from yesterday shows that they already are looking at it this way. They didn't address all of those external issues. They looked at the legal standards. I think that's exactly what they should look at. As I said, we don't know what they'll rule in terms of the final merits decision. But I think they should look at the legal standards, not the political surroundings.

MARTIN: Carrie Severino is with the Judicial Crisis Network. Thanks so much.

SEVERINO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.