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President Trump Calls Supreme Court Decision On Travel Ban A Victory For Americans

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Supreme Court handed President Trump a major win today. In a 5-4 ruling, the court upheld one of the Trump administration's earliest and most controversial acts - the ban on travelers to the U.S. from several Muslim-majority countries. Today President Trump praised the decision.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A tremendous success - a tremendous victory for the American people and for our Constitution. This is a great victory for our Constitution.

KELLY: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is at the White House, and she joins us now. Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So I don't have to tell you this travel ban has had quite the tortured history, from when it was first announced very hastily right after Trump took office - was immediately challenged. Walk us through how we got to this court decision today, and give me a little more detail about what exactly the ruling says.

LIASSON: Well, this was the third version of the president's travel ban. And in their ruling, the majority said pay attention to what the travel ban says - the actual wording of this third version - not to what the president has said all along because initially, of course, the president said he wanted a ban on Muslims coming to the U.S.

KELLY: Right.

LIASSON: That would've been an unconstitutional religious test. And that's what the dissenters wanted to focus on. In this 5-4 ruling, Sonia Sotomayor, who was in the dissenters, said that the policy was, quote, "openly and unequivocally advertised as a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S." That's actually Donald Trump's words on the campaign trail. She said it was merely masquerading behind a facade of national security concerns, but it was still motivated by anti-Muslim animus. In other words, an unconstitutional religious test. But the majority said it doesn't matter what the president may have tweeted or said. What matters was the language of the third version of the order itself, which now included two countries that were not majority-Muslim - Venezuela and North Korea.

KELLY: Right. Now, aside from calling it a great victory as we just heard, what else is the president saying about the decision?

LIASSON: Well, the president said that the ruling was a profound vindication for his approach to immigration in general. Here's what he said.

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TRUMP: The ruling shows that all of the attacks from the media and the Democrat politicians are wrong, and they turned out to be very wrong. And what we're looking for as Republicans, I can tell you, is strong borders - no crime. What the Democrats are looking at is open borders, which will bring tremendous crime.

LIASSON: So if that sounds familiar, it should because that's the president's basic message for the midterms. He's tough. He's strong. He's going to keep America safe. The Democrats are weak. Today he got a big victory to propel that message forward.

KELLY: Another message one suspects he will be trying to propel forward is, hey, this was a 5-4 vote.

LIASSON: (Laughter).

KELLY: And that is Neil Gorsuch who I...

LIASSON: Yep, yep.

KELLY: ...Put on the bench. And so if you want to keep decisions like this coming, we should put more conservatives on the bench.

LIASSON: Yup, and that - conservatives have been on a real winning streak. A lot of wins at the Supreme Court. Republicans were also doing a victory dance today. They said this ruling vindicated Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, who decided to hold open that ninth seat. Remember, he prevented Barack Obama from getting a vote on his nominee for almost a year until a Republican could get into the White House and appoint a conservative justice. Today Mitch McConnell's campaign tweeted a picture of him with that new justice, Neil Gorsuch, with the caption team Mitch. So the question is, will this ruling motivate Democratic voters to care about the Supreme Court? In the past, Republicans have been the one who - voters have been the one who care about the Supreme Court - Democrats not so much.

KELLY: All right, that is NPR's Mara Liasson at the White House. Thanks very much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.