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Trump, foes sweat out appeals court’s ruling on travel ban

President Donald Trump meets with county sheriffs in

President Donald Trump meets with county sheriffs in the Oval Office in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Credit: EPA / Andrew Harrer / Pool

Will court thwart Trump?

“Some things are law,” said President Donald Trump. “And some things are common sense. This is common sense.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday on whether Trump’s vision of common sense — his temporary travel ban to keep out people from seven Muslim-majority countries — is permissible under the law. It will likely issue a ruling this week.

One key focus of debate Tuesday was whether the states that challenged the executive order have legal standing to do so. Foes of the ban called it unconstitutional discrimination. They cited Trump's past public comments and Rudy Giuliani's claim that Trump "wanted a Muslim ban" and had him assemble a commission to find "the right way to do it legally." 

The government wants the court to restore Trump’s order — frozen by a district court judge — and contends that the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States. Early Wednesday, the president -- possibly preparing for a setback -- hissed at the judges again.

The appellate court could keep the stay in place, toss it or restore parts of Trump’s order. No matter what it decides, the case is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

The take-away: States’ rights

For generations, “states’ rights” was a rallying cry for conservative causes. Now, it’s progressives going to the courts to defend the prerogatives of the states and fight Trump policies they see as wrongheaded, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Deep-blue California has retained Barack Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, just to help sue the federal government. Sixteen Democratic state attorneys general signed a friend-of-the-court brief against the Republican president’s travel ban order.

Again, a phony cover-up charge

Trump, talking to a sheriffs’ group, said the U.S. murder rate is “the highest it’s been in 47 years,” but “the press doesn’t like to tell it like it is” because “it wasn’t to their advantage to say that.”

Actually, it wasn’t reported because it’s not true, no matter how many times Trump repeats it. The murder rate in 2015 — the last year with full data — was 4.9 per 100,000 people. That’s roughly half the rate of the 1980s and 1990s.

If Trump had said the jump between 2014 and 2015 was the highest in a half-century, that would have been accurate.

On Monday, Trump said the news media didn’t report terrorist attacks for “reasons” he insinuated were nefarious.

Later, the White House retreated to a claim that some incidents were underreported. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Americans need reminding that “the Earth is a very dangerous place these days.” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

Speaking of planets, earthling Jim Dwyer traces the line between all this conspiracy nonsense and the outer-orbit Infowars website run by Trump ally Alex Jones.

Retort: Some stuff is ‘true’

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, grilled on CNN by Jake Tapper about Trump’s falsehoods, said what’s more important is the “many things that he says that are true that are making a difference in people’s lives.”

As for those bogus crime numbers, Conway, who coined the phrase “alternative facts,” suggested Trump was relying on alternative data that was unknown to her. “I think he is relying upon data, perhaps, for a particular area. I don’t know who gave him that data,” Conway said.

She diverged from Trump’s blanket condemnation of CNN as “fake news,” stating, “No, I don’t think CNN is fake news. I think there are some reports, everywhere, in print, on TV, on radio, in conversation, that are not well-researched and are sometimes based on falsehoods.” (Click here for interview video.)

The fake-news club

Earlier, Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump and a former Breitbart News editor, said that the administration will continue pounding the media with the epithet “fake news” until journalists understand that their “monumental desire” to attack the president is wrong.

Gorka’s remarks came in an interview with conservative radio host Michael Medved.

Special Sessions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) late Tuesday led a party-line rebuke of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for reading on the floor the late Corretta Scott King's past statements against attorney general candidate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

The symbolic dust-up put Warren’s allegation that Sessions, whose past record on race raised hackles, will act as nothing more than a legal rubber-stamp for Trump. 

DeVos, in a squeaker

The Senate confirmed school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as education secretary, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. Pence’s vote was the first by a vice president to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination, according to the Senate’s historian.

Public school educators and teacher unions on Long Island and at the state level largely denounced the approval of DeVos, while supporters of school choice celebrated and claimed victory, Newsday’s Scott Eidler and John Hildebrand reported.

With other Trump nominees still stuck in the pipeline, such as Steve Mnuchin for Treasury and Tom Price for Health and Human Services, the president vented on Twitter: “It is a disgrace that my full Cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country. Obstruction by Democrats!”

Is it really the longest delay? Not exactly, but comparisons get complicated, as BuzzFeed explains.

China courts Ivanka

After its relations with Trump got off to a rocky start, China bypassed more traditional diplomatic channels by inviting his daughter Ivanka to a Lunar New Year celebration at its embassy in Washington last week, Bloomberg News reports.

The Global Times, a Communist Party-run newspaper, said Ivanka helped balance her father’s “harsh posture” and the appearance “could be invigorating to the China-U.S. relationship.”

Ivanka and her daughter, Arabella, were filmed listening to traditional music, admiring crafts and playing with puppets. Ivanka later posted a video of Arabella singing a song in Mandarin. The meeting was arranged by Ivanka’s husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner, and Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Schumer more wary on Gorsuch

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said his concerns about Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, deepened after a private meeting with the Court of Appeals judge.

“The judge today avoided answering questions like the plague,” Schumer told reporters. But Schumer said he hasn’t decided how he will vote.

Another Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said that when he meets with Gorsuch on Wednesday, he will ask him to “repudiate” Trump’s attacks on the judiciary.

What else is happening

  • Trump's failed, fatal Yemen raid has led that nation to withdraw permission for the U.S. to run special operations there.Comparisons to Benghazi are already spreading.
  • Is Melania Trump looking to cash in on being first lady? Her lawyers in a libel suit she filed say that the “multiyear term” during which she “is one of the most photographed women in the world” could mean millions of dollars for her personal brand “in multiple product categories.”
  • More Republicans appear to be coming around to finding ways to repair Obamacare in the short run and replace it sometime in the future, The Atlantic reports.
  • Senate Republicans say fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder’s admission that he employed an immigrant without documentation as a housekeeper should not impede his confirmation as secretary of labor. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Puzder “reported his mistake and voluntarily corrected it.”
  • Trump tweeted his irritation at the “haters” who are “going crazy” after his latest effort to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputation as a “killer” by suggesting equivalence with U.S. misdeeds.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers, at Trump’s behest, said it will grant final approval as soon as Wednesday to complete the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline. The Obama administration had delayed the project, which was opposed by environmental protesters and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
  • Trump often mocked his predecessor for the amount of time he spent on the golf course, but Obama waited until four months into his presidency before hitting the links. Trump was out there after two weeks, Politico reports.

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