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Though a federal court blocked President Donald Trump's immigration order, Sen. Mike Lee suggested that the executive action "could certainly be implemented legally."
Lee, R-Utah, indicated during an online town-hall meeting Monday night that Trump's order accords with powers granted to the president under the Immigration and Nationality Act allowing "wide discretion" to suspend travel when deemed necessary for national security.
"That authority does exist," Lee said in response to a phoned-in question from a constituent. The senator later added: "There's no reason why this executive order could not be implemented in a manner that is completely constitutional."
Last week, Lee indicated that he had "some technical questions" about how Trump's order would be carried out. The executive edict temporarily bars travelers from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all predominantly Muslim countries; it also issues a refugee moratorium.
Trump's penned actions in line with his campaign promise of a "Muslim ban" were called into question with a nationwide stay, effectively stopping enforcement, issued Friday night by U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle.
The president later called Robart a "so-called judge" on Twitter and labeled the court's ruling "ridiculous." He posted three other tweets Saturday about the stay, including one message noting that "because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country."
Lee, who is an attorney, condemned Trump's criticisms of Robart.
"I don't think it's helpful at all to refer to a sitting federal judge who has issued an opinion that the president simply disagrees with as a 'so-called judge,' " he said during the meeting. "I wish he wouldn't do that."
Lee also cautioned that if Trump were to "overstep his bounds" in implementing the order, he would push back and withhold funding for the president's action. The senator promised to "watch this closely."
A federal appeals court declined to immediately restore the travel ban early Sunday after a request from the Justice Department. The court, though, is slated to hear arguments Tuesday.
Monday's town hall also repeatedly returned to the topic of how Lee represents his constituents. At the beginning of the hourlong broadcast, a staffer in the senator's office said aides have received an unprecedented volume of calls about 5,000 a week with a common concern being Trump's pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos. While Lee acknowledged that many residents don't support DeVos, he still plans to vote for her confirmation.
"It won't always be the case that the way I vote will necessarily be consistent with what I'm hearing from phone calls and emails from my constituents," he said. "If all politicians do is put their finger to the wind and figure out which way it's blowing, they're not doing anything to lead."