Court hearing on Trump travel ban draws more than 2.6 mln listeners

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By Timothy Mclaughlin

<span class="articleLocation”>More than 2.6 million people tuned into cable TV
or went online to hear dramatic audio-only coverage of a federal
appeals court hearing on U.S. President Donald Trump’s temporary
travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries and
refugees.

For more than an hour, people around the United States
listened to arguments from attorneys for the U.S. government and
Washington state, which sued to challenge Trump’s executive
order imposing the ban.

For those using their TVs to hear the coverage, there were
also simple graphics and photos. Others listened to streaming
online audio.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco pressed the government’s attorney on
the lawfulness of Trump’s Jan. 27 order, which triggered chaos
and protests at U.S. airports and oversea.

The order barred travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia,
Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days and
all refugees for 120 days. It banned refugees from Syria
indefinitely.

The Republican president, who took office on Jan. 20, has
defended the measure as necessary to protect Americans. Critics
said it discriminated against Muslims and violated the U.S.
Constitution.

Last Friday, a federal judge in Seattle suspended the
executive order. Many travelers who had been waylaid by the ban
quickly moved to travel to the United States while it was in
limbo.

The government appealed the decision, and the San Francisco
judges heard arguments in the case on Tuesday night.

All three major U.S. cable news networks aired either parts
of or the entire hearing, which ran from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
EST. Only the audio was available because the hearing was
conducted via conference call.

More than 2.5 million people combined tuned in on CNN or
MSNBC, while another 3 million listened to segments of the
hearing on Fox News, according to Nielsen data provided by Fox
News.

As many as 137,000 people listened to the court’s live feed
of the session, said David Madden, assistant circuit executive
for the 9th Circuit.

The lack of visuals did not scare away those interested –
and even led some to liken the experience to huddling around a
radio in the pre-TV era.

“@CNN this is television gold. Reminds me of when I was
grounded and had to listen to the radio. #WAvTrump #9thCircuit,”
Jon Eekhoff (@joneekhoff) said on Twitter.

Madden was surprised by the amount of interest in the
hearing, “but I think the court was prepared for it,” he said by
email.

As lawyers grappled with questions from the judges, law
experts and academics, including Harvard Law School Professor
Laurence Tribe, provided the kind of play-by-play commentary
generally reserved for major sporting events.

The ability of the public to listen to the hearings was
particularly important given Trump’s questioning of the judges
as “so political” and the hearing as “disgraceful,” Tribe said.

“It was a moment for an important kind of civic education
and public engagement in the process of government,” Tribe said. (Additional reporting by Tim Baysinger in New York)



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