A day after a three-judge panel rebuffed him, President Trump vowed to order new security measures to accomplish the same purpose as his executive order. He also said his administration would keep fighting for the original order in court.

Share story

WASHINGTON — President Trump vowed Friday to order new security measures by next week intended to stop terrorists from entering the United States, while aides debated whether to ask the Supreme Court to reinstate his original travel ban that has been blocked by lower courts.

A day after a three-judge panel rebuffed him, Trump said he might sign “a brand-new order” as early as Monday that would be aimed at accomplishing the same purpose but, presumably, with a stronger legal basis. While he vowed to keep fighting for the original order in court, he indicated he would not wait for the process to play out to take action.

“We will win that battle,” he said on Air Force One as he flew to Florida for a weekend golf outing with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. Yet noting that it likely would not happen quickly, he also raised the possibility of “a lot of other options, including just filing a brand-new order.”

Asked if he would do that, Trump said, “We need speed for reasons of security, so it very well could be.”

More on travel ban

 

The president’s pivot represented a short-term tactical retreat even as he insisted he would prevail in the long run. The battle over his order, which suspended refugee flows and temporarily banned visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, has come to define Trump’s presidency at home and abroad, and has tested his capacity to impose his will on a political and legal system that he has vowed to master.

Trump typically prefers a fight, but drafting a new travel order would acknowledge that sometimes a president must find other ways to proceed. Asked to describe what he had in mind for a new executive order, he said: “We’re going to have very, very strong vetting. I call it extreme vetting, and we’re going very strong on security. We are going to have people coming to our country that want to be here for good reason.”

White House officials denied news reports that the president would not appeal the case to the Supreme Court. “All options remain on the table,” Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said by email late Friday.

A new directive would be intended to allay the type of chaos that erupted as a result of Trump’s Jan. 27 order, which blocked an estimated 60,000 people with valid visas, some while they were in midair and others who were removed from planes bound for the U.S. before takeoff. The federal court rulings against Trump cited, among other things, the rough implementation of the order in staying it.

A new version of the executive order would amount to a tacit admission that the administration would not be able to quickly or easily overturn the decision issued Thursday by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Even some conservative lawyers allied with the White House said there was little chance of prevailing right away with the Supreme Court, which is divided along ideological lines with one seat vacant.

Trump has other ways to soldier on. The 9th Circuit decision left in place a temporary restraining order blocking the travel order, but did not rule on the underlying constitutional or legal issues of the case. The president could ask the full 9th Circuit to hear an appeal on the restraining order, or he could return to the lower courts for a battle over the merits, which would take longer to conclude.

The administration was still fighting battles in other courts across the nation. Lawyers for the Justice Department were back in court in Alexandria, Va., on Friday arguing against a preliminary injunction that would also halt the travel ban from being enforced nationwide.

Given multiple challenges, the idea of starting over appealed to the White House.

The original executive order banned refugees from anywhere in the world from entering the United States for 120 days, and banned refugees from Syria indefinitely. It also cut off visitors for 90 days from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump said he needed time to tighten screening procedures.

White House officials could draft a new order that would address some of the concerns raised by the judges. A new order, for instance, could explicitly state that it did not apply to permanent legal residents holding green cards. After some initial crossed signals, the White House and Department of Homeland Security have said Trump’s original ban does not affect green-card holders, but the appeals-court judges pointed out that was not in the text of the order.

The White House could also narrow the categories of people affected, or change the list of countries targeted. It could also take out provisions intended to give preference to religious minorities (in Muslim countries that would refer to Christians, among others). Trump said in a television interview that he wanted to give preference to Christian refugees, but the judges expressed concern about a religious rule that could be discriminatory.

Citing attacks in Europe during the past year, Trump has argued that the restrictions were necessary to stop terrorists from entering the United States. As the U.S. has struggled with terrorism in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil by anyone from one of those seven countries — a point noted by the judges — although some would-be attackers from those countries have been thwarted. The White House could try to offer a stronger rationale for why a temporary ban would stop terrorism.

Trump’s attacks on the judiciary have drawn criticism. He initially called U.S. District Judge James Robart of Seattle, who first blocked his executive order, a “so-called judge” and said Americans should blame the judge if there were a terrorist attack. When the appeals court took up the case, he said a “bad high-school student” would uphold the order.

Trump started Friday with another attack on the appeals-court ruling, calling it “a disgraceful decision.”

But for much of the rest of the day, he avoided the incendiary language he has been using. At a White House news conference with Abe before flying to Florida, he said he would fight in court, but he did not address the judges.

Trump suggested he had learned more about the threat of terrorism from intelligence briefings since he took office.

“While I’ve been president, which is just for a very short period of time, I’ve learned tremendous things that you could only learn, frankly, if you were in a certain position, namely president,” he said. “And there are tremendous threats to our country. We will not allow that to happen. I can tell you that right now. We will not allow that to happen.”