File Photo - U.S. President Donald Trump points to a guest as he arrives onstage for concluding remarks as first lady Melania Trump looks on, at the Ford's Theatre Gala, an annual charity event to honor the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln, in Washington, U.S., June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler(reuters_tickers)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump urged his administration to seek a tougher version of his controversial travel ban proposal on Monday following a weekend attack in London, and pressed for an expedited judicial review by the nation's top court.
Trump's comments, made in early tweets on Monday, could weigh on his administration's emergency request last week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate his travel ban on people entering the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries.
"The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.," tweeted Trump, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down travel ban before the Supreme Court - & seek much tougher version!" Trump, who as president oversees the department, said in another tweet.
Late Thursday, Trump's legal team asked the court to allow his controversial March 6 executive order for the travel ban to take effect immediately, despite being blocked by lower courts. The Supreme Court rarely grants emergency requests.
The Republican president has said his proposed ban, a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign, is necessary to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. Critics have assailed the ban as discriminatory and his reasoning for it as flawed.
“The President's tweets may help encourage his base, but they can't help him in court,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
At issue before the top court is whether the travel curbs violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on religious discrimination by targeting Muslims. Justice Department lawyers have argued that their revised executive order is substantially different from the first one issued in January.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at The George Washington University who has said the administration's immigration order is legal, said Trump’s references to it as a “travel ban” in his tweets undermine the justice department’s defense of it.
“Ironically, it makes more difficult the very thing that Trump was demanding: the reinstatement of his immigration order,” Turley said.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who opposes the ban, said on Monday Trump's tweets on the issue "clearly shows his intent" and his disdain for the judicial branch.
"The courts have ruled, and the courts said this abused the executive powers. His lawyers tried to justify it by saying it wasn't a travel ban, that it was just extreme vetting," Cardin told CNN. "The president's made that very clear: it is a travel ban."
Legal challenges to the ban, including by the ACLU and Hawaii, reject the administration's claim that urgent action is needed to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. They also note the government had not ask the Supreme Court to intervene earlier, when lower courts denied emergency applications seeking to lift the injunctions against the travel curbs.
On Friday, the Supreme Court asked the challengers of the travel ban to file responses to the emergency request by June 12. Trump's administration would then likely to file its own response before the court's nine justices make their decision.
"It's kinda odd to have the defendant in Hawaii v Trump acting as our co-counsel. We don't need the help but will take it!" Neal Katyal, Hawaii's lawyer in its case against the ban, said in a tweeted response to Trump's posts on Monday.
Trump needs five votes from the top court in his favor to put the ban into effect. With the confirmation of Trump's Supreme Court pick earlier this year, the court retains a 5-4 conservative majority, while the lower courts that have ruled thus far have been more liberal-leaning.
If the Supreme Court backs Trump, the 90-day ban on people entering the United States from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will be immediately revived.
The court could also put a 120-day ban on all refugees into effect and allow the administration to consider new vetting procedures.
Even as legal wrangling over the ban continues, Trump also tweeted on Monday that his administration was implementing tougher vetting of would-be visitors to the United States, adding: "The courts are slow and political!"
Last week, his administration rolled out new policies for those seeking a U.S. visa, asking for the social media handles they have used over the last five years and biographical information going back 15 years.
(Writing by Lawrence Hurley and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Bernadette Baum)