Justice Department asks Seattle judge to defer action on Trump travel ban


Feb 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday a U.S. appeals court should fully review the suspension of President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban from seven-Muslim majority countries before any more proceedings take place before a Seattle federal judge.

Trump's order, which he called a national security measure meant to head off attacks by Islamist militants, barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, except refugees from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

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U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle suspended Trump's order after its legality was challenged by Washington state, eliciting a barrage of angry Twitter messages from Trump against the judge and the court system. That ruling was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week, raising questions about Trump's next step.

Following the 9th Circuit's decision, Trump announced the possibility of a "brand new order" that could be issued as soon as this week. Trump gave no details of any new ban he is considering.

He might rewrite the original order to explicitly exclude green card holders, or permanent residents, a congressional aide familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters last week.

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The Justice Department, in a court filing on Monday, did not discuss the possibility of a new executive order. It said, however, that Robart should hold off from further action for now given activity at the appeals court.

An unidentified judge on the 9th Circuit on Friday requested that the court's 25 full-time judges vote on whether the temporary block of Trump's travel ban should be reheard before an 11-judge panel, known as en banc review. The 9th Circuit asked both sides to file briefs by Thursday.

The Justice Department did not say on Monday what position it would take on the 9th Circuit's en banc decision, or whether it would ultimately appeal the suspension to the Supreme Court.

But it said the outcome of the 9th Circuit's process "will likely inform" what additional proceedings are necessary in Seattle.

In a separate court filing on Monday, Washington's attorney general said a Seattle judge should immediately allow discovery into the merits of its case.

Robart has scheduled a hearing to take place on the issue later on Monday. (Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)