A court ruled that President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries will remain on hold until its constitutionality is decided. The Thursday decision by a federal appeals court means Trump's ban will not affect thousands of travelers during the time courts will take to decide whether the ban is legal.
The three-judge panel ruled unanimously against the federal government, saying there was "no evidence" that people from the seven countries banned by Trump had committed acts of terrorism in the United States. Countering government lawyers, the judges also made clear they have the authority to check presidential power in matters of national security — but they added there was not enough evidence presented at this stage to determine whether the ban necessarily discriminated against Muslims.
What's next: As Trump tweeted Thursday night, the federal government will appeal the case to the Supreme Court. But the 4-4 split of legal and conservative justices there means the appeals court ruling could decide the case.
How Trump reacted: "It's a decision that we'll win, in my opinion, very easily." The president was not pleased, calling the ruling "a political decision."
What this means for the country: Assuming the appeals court decision holds, American residents, green card holders, immigrants with visas, refugees and others will be able to avoid the repercussions of Trump's ban for the foreseeable future. That is a godsend for thousands of people who found themselves unable to enter or reenter the country or were otherwise concerned about their travel status.
The ruling gives Trump few options. The president could roll back his current ban and issue another order that explicitly does not discriminate based on country of origin. He could also vow to fight, or perhaps even ignore, the ultimate ruling on this order, triggering a constitutional crisis between the president and a judiciary without the force to back up its decision. Trump could also quietly let the ban fall off the books. Except for Syrian refugees, who were banned indefinitely, the longest suspensions in the order were for 120 days, a timeline that could have ended by the time the case is decided.
The rollout of Trump's order gave courts ample opportunity to put a hold on his executive action. Yet the ban was a key promise to Trump's base. Something to watch: Will Trump blast judges and court rulings to win the PR battle but do little to counter the decisions? Could he convince most of his supporters the ban remains in place through messaging over the court rulings? Only time will tell.
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What Tom Price means for the Affordable Care Act
One of the staunchest critics of Barack Obama's health care law is now in charge of overseeing the repeal, replacement, repair or whatever action Congress takes to alter the ACA. Rep. Tom Price was confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in a party-line vote early Friday morning. The 52-47 Senate decision tasks the orthopedic surgeon from suburban Atlanta with fulfilling the longtime Republican dream of killing the law.
Price now has the authority to move as quickly as he likes to tweak — or outright gut — the ACA. He could end enforcement of the individual mandate that all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. Price could also stop fighting a GOP lawsuit and force many insurers to leave health insurance markets by stopping subsidies for low-income Americans. Democrats also worry Price wants to scale back Medicare benefits and offer older Americans a private alternative.
Price's confirmation comes as the GOP is coalescing around a plan for health care. The new HHS secretary will likely push for full-scale repeal of the current law, followed by a replacement plan that focuses on offering health savings accounts to help Americans save pre-tax to cover their health care costs. (If you don't have enough money in the first place, having one of those accounts doesn't really help you.) House Speaker Paul Ryan has maintained Congress will pass its full alterations to the law by the end of 2017, though implementation of that plan could take years.
Meanwhile, GOP members of Congress are facing the music in their districts. Town halls are turning into rallies full of people angry about proposals to repeal the ACA. In Utah and Tennessee, Republicans faced raucous criticism from voters. In Michigan, when a gathering erupted in angry jeers, a congressman tried to convince his constituents that his opposition to the ACA was rational, instead of fleeing the scene like many of his counterparts had done. The heat Republicans feel at home will have a major impact on how the law is shaped, as it did in 2009 and 2010 when Democrats faced angry crowds in their districts.
Kellyanne Conway's branding stumble
"Go buy Ivanka's stuff." Kellyanne Conway's avowed endorsement of Ivanka Trump's retail brands drew the most uniform criticism. Conway said she was giving Ivanka Trump's products a "free commercial" a day after the president attacked Nordstrom for dropping his daughter's retail products. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, pounced on the opportunity to call out an ethics violation at the White House. He tweeted that Conway's comments were "wrong, wrong, wrong."
Chaffetz asked the Office of Government Ethics to determine whether Conway's statement broke federal policy. The White House said Conway had been "counseled" about her comments, and she tweeted Friday morning that "POTUS supports me."
The latest detente with Russia
Perceived connections between the White House and Russia are only growing stronger. A Washington Post exposé released Thursday stated national security adviser Michael Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions in the month before Trump took office. Flynn initially said that communication never happened, a denial his spokesperson later walked back. The New York Times later reported there is a transcript of the conversation that may go public. And another account of Trump's call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin reported the president had to take a break to get advice on American nuclear treaties with Russia. More Putin news: The Russian president has said he welcomes an offer from Slovenia to host a meeting with Trump.
The newest executive orders
After he swore in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump signed three new executive orders. The target: law and order. The first action creates a federal task force to identify ways to reduce crime across the country. That policy review comes as the United States continues to see decreases in violent crime. The second order says existing punishments for violence against law enforcement officers are not strong enough and must be strengthened. It should be noted: Data shows police are the safest they've been in decades. Third, Trump called for stronger action against international criminals and illegal traffickers.
It's not that anyone would argue law enforcement officers should not be protected, or that violent crime should not be lowered. But many see these "law and order" actions as giving Trump a pretense to crack down nationally on dissent.
News and insight you cannot miss:
• After facing pressure from the Chinese premier, Trump said he will endorse the "one China" policy that is core to the beliefs of the Chinese government. (BBC)
• Mic spoke with several black activists. They categorically criticized the nomination of Jeff Sessions. (Mic)
• Speaking of Sessions, here are 11 times he voted against immigration reform. (Mic)
• Another black Patriots player says he will not go to the White House after New England's Super Bowl win. (Mic)
• Trump's border wall is projected to cost $21.6 billion and take more than three years to build. (Mic)
• The Politico subheadline Reince Priebus doesn't want to read this morning. "The new president’s allies say he has been surprised that government can’t be run like his business."