WASHINGTON • The US Justice Department has vowed to challenge an appeals court ruling that slammed a travel ban against six Muslim majority nations as being "steeped in animus", putting President Donald Trump on track for his first Supreme Court showdown.
Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said the administration disagrees with the court's refusal on Thursday to lift a nationwide freeze on the ban. The judges said the directive "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination".
Mr Sessions said: "The President is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk."
The administration did not say when it would appeal. The White House so far has eschewed asking the Supreme Court to take emergency action to let the ban take effect while the litigation plays out.
Mr Trump's position was strengthened last month when the Senate confirmed his Supreme Court nominee, Mr Neil Gorsuch. Reinstating the ban would require the votes of five of the nine justices, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the likely swing vote.
If the court agrees to hear the case, the appeal would not be heard until fall at the earliest, unless the justices take an extraordinary step and order arguments sooner.
Thursday's ruling was the first of two appeals court decisions focused on whether to uphold temporary injunctions blocking the ban. The courts are weighing facts alleged in the lawsuits to determine if the plaintiffs are likely to prevail.
The judges used especially harsh language in a 79-page decision warning that government missteps in dealing with religion can foster hostility and division and encourage persecution of minorities.