US President Donald Trump has defended his immigration executive order as necessary for the nation’s security, in a speech to law enforcement officers in which he criticized US courts as being “political”.
“I don’t ever want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased,” Mr Trump said.
“And we haven’t had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read the statement and do what’s right.
“And that has to do with the security of our country.”
The temporary ban faced tough scrutiny by the three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which is weighing a challenge to the order.
The panel pressed a government lawyer over whether the Trump administration’s national security argument was backed by evidence that people from the seven countries posed a danger.
A lawyer representing Minnesota and Washington states, which are challenging the ban, were asked if a Seattle judge’s suspension of Trump’s policy was “overbroad”.
A federal appeals court was expected to rule on Wednesday (local time) on Mr Trump’s US travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, one day after questioning whether the order unfairly targeted people over their religion.
However, the court issued a statement saying the ruling would be delayed, and that 90 minutes notice would be given before it was handed down.
Ultimately the matter is likely to go to the US Supreme Court.
Mr Trump’s January 27 order barred travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, except those from Syria, whom he would ban indefinitely.
The order, the most divisive act of Mr Trump’s three-week-old presidency, sparked protests and chaos at US and overseas airports.
A federal judge in Seattle suspended the order last Friday, and many travellers who had been waylaid by the ban quickly moved to travel to the United States while it was in limbo.
Mr Trump was criticised for later questioning the “so-called judge” and on Wednesday tweeted: “If the US does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled. Politics!”
He tweeted on the matter again before the meeting of police chiefs and sheriffs, saying the US could not have the security to which it was entitled if the court found in favour of maintaining the travel ban’s suspension.
The legal fight ultimately centres on how much power a president has to decide who cannot enter the United States and whether the order violates a provision of the US Constitution that prohibits laws favouring one religion over another, along with relevant discrimination laws.