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Virginia Looks to Hold Trump in Contempt of Court for Violating Order Regarding Travel Ban


The day after President Donald Trump issued his January 27 executive order restricting immigration and refugees, a federal court in Virginia issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that required Customs and Border Protection officials to let attorneys speak with legal residents who were being detained. Based on evidence that CBP officers did not let detained travelers at Virginia’s Dulles International Airport see lawyers, the state is now looking for the court to hold President Trump in contempt of court.

A declaration in support of the motion by Virginia Congressman Donald Beyer details his personal experience, and alleges that he witnessed officials ignore the TRO. “Attorney after attorney complained to me that CBP would not allow them access to the holding rooms where travelers may have been detained,” Beyer says, adding that he did not come across a single lawyer who got to speak with a detained traveler. Beyer, joined by three other Congressmen, tried to speak with CBP officials, but airport police wouldn’t let them. A brief in support of the motion mentions other members of Congress, including Senator Cory Booker, who tried and failed to get CBP officials to comply with the TRO.

This seems like a pretty clear violation of the order, and the State’s motion asks for Trump and CBP officials to show why they should not be held in contempt. But while the facts of Beyer’s situation are straightforward, the reasons behind it may not be. As law professor Carolyn Shapiro told Slate, a contempt hearing would be necessary to determine exactly who is in contempt, meaning who gave the CBP orders and who enforced them. The case was originally brought against Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and its chief John Kelly, CBP, acting CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan, Dulles Airport CBP head Wayne Biondi and eight CBP agents.

“CBP would likely have to produce records of who up the chain of command is directing them to act,” Shapiro said, and if there’s no record that Trump himself gave the order to violate the TRO, it would be difficult to hold him in contempt of court. If there was evidence that other high level officials gave the instructions to CBP, those officials could be held in contempt and face fines or jail time. Of course, they could appeal the decision.

This is a developing story. will provide new information as the case continues.

[Image via Washington Post screengrab]

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