Virginia judge blocks Trump ban – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Virginia late Monday issued a preliminary injunction building on aÂ blockade Â of the Trump administration’s travel ban, ruling that the state is “likely to suffer irreparable harm” without the court’s intervention.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema specifically bars the administration from acting against lawful permanent residents of Virginia or those who hold valid student or spousal visas. A separate appeals court order maintains a national suspension of the Trump order.
The Virginia injunctionÂ comes just days after Brinkema offered a blistering critique of the travel ban,Â citing a “startling” lack of evidence that travelers from the seven Muslim-majority countries represented a specific national security threat.
Last week’s separate federal appeals court decision left in place a ruling that resulted in a sweeping national suspension of the travel ban.
The Virginia judge, however, made no secret of her disagreement with Trump’s order, saying last week that its language was overly “broad and imprecise.”
During last Friday’sÂ hour-long hearing, Brinkema highlighted statements from a group of former top national security officials of both parties who said that they were “unaware of any specific threat” posed by travelers from the designated countries. They also suggested that the administration’s order could “undermine the national security of the United States.”
“I don’t have a scintilla of evidence that counters this argument,” Brinkema said, directing her remarks to government lawyers.
Erez Reuveni, a senior Justice Department counsel, acknowledged that the government had not included such evidence in its presentation but he said Virginia authorities had not offered “proof of actual harm” to any large class of travelers to support its broad request for an injunction.
In the Virginia case, Reuveni contended that state authorities had offered no argument to suggest that immigrants or other travelers were at risk of any immediate harm as a result of the order, indicating that case focused on less than a handful of people.
But Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael told Brinkema that there are potentially hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand, of students and faculty members already in the United States who would be unable to leave the country because of the order’s restraints on re-entering the country.
BrinkemaÂ focused her questioningÂ during the hearing on the apparent lack of a specific threat that might validate the president’s order.Â “The courts are begging you to give us information to support this order, and none has been forthcoming,” Brinkema said, adding that the federal courts have a long engaged in reviews of sensitive information related to national security.
Brinkema presided in the 2006 trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, a case that featured the review of highly classified information. More recently, she oversaw the case of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was convicted in 2015 of leaking classified information to a journalist.
On Friday, the judge assailed the language of the Trump administration executive order, saying that “on the surface, it looks legitimate. But when you look behind it, there are all kinds of weaknesses in it.”