White House Defends Comey’s Firing As Appeals Court Hears Arguments On Travel Ban

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was a busy day in Washington, as President Trump has indicated he’s getting closer to picking a new director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But in Federal Court, crucial arguments were heard Monday about the president’s proposed travel ban. Judges are now considering if the revised ban is legal. Today, both sides made their cases to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The White House wants the 9th Circuit to block the injunction which halted the president’s executive order. The three judges, all appointed by former President Clinton, focused on whether the ban is discriminatory based on Trump’s campaign statements about banning Muslims.

“We ask that the District Court’s ruling enjoining this unconstitutional and un-American executive order be affirmed,” attorney Neal Katyal said.

“What the president did here falls squarely into his constitutional and statutory authority,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall said.

The arguments came as the president spoke at the National Police Officers memorial service, condemning attacks on police and vowing to protect those serving in law enforcement.

“The attacks on our police are a stain on the very fabric of our society,” Trump said Monday.

The president also hosted the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi at the White House, and said he was “moving rapidly” when reporters asked about the search for a new FBI director.

The Justice Department has interviewed eight candidates for the post to replace James Comey, and the White House could make its choice by Friday.

Meanwhile, the White House used Monday’s daily press conference to stress its lack of faith in former director Comey, saying the president’s action was needed even if the timing of the move would be “detrimental to himself and prolong the investigation.”

“He didn’t care if this action made matters worse for him,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer about President Donald Trump’s firing of Comey last week. “He said that he wants the investigation to go ‘absolutely properly,’ and he said he might even confuse people if he takes this action.”

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports, Democrats are threatening to vote against anyone the president picks unless a special prosecutor is named to take over the Russia investigation.

“The need to have someone that is independent and far away from any of the actors to get to the bottom of this is so important,” Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Trump removed Comey as head of the FBI on May 9, raising questions about whether the White House wanted to scuttle an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections.

“I think very clearly there was bipartisan support that Jim Comey wasn’t up the job,” said Spicer. “The president has every right to fire a person. Director Comey lacked the judgement and the decision making skills to live up to the job. The president’s reaction to this and his position has been completely misrepresented.

“He knew the actions that he took could be detrimental to himself and prolong the investigation, but he knew it was the right thing for the country, the right thing for the FBI, and the right thing to get to the bottom of this.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Garcia and Alice Fisher — an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush — arrived at the Justice Department this weekend. They’re among the more than two dozen lawmakers, attorneys, and law enforcement officials emerging as candidates for the the next director of the FBI.

Regarding the Russia investigation, Spicer said there was no need for a special prosecutor, because he says the House, Senate, and FBI are all conducting investigations already.

In the meantime, the White House is reacting to the latest ballistic missile launch by North Korea. The Trump administration says the North continues to threaten the U.S., its allies, and its neighbors.

“We are doing all the folks in the region including China, Russia to do everything they can to help resolve this situation and bring stability to the peninsula,” Spicer said Monday.

There was no mention about the president’s tweets regarding Comey and the possibility that he was rolling tapes in the White House.

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