HONOLULU -- A federal judge in Hawaii blocked President Donald Trump's new travel ban on Wednesday afternoon, hours before it was set to go into effect.
The practical effect of the ruling -- which applies nationwide -- means that travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees will be able to travel to the U.S.
Trump decried the ruling during a rally Wednesday night in Nashville, Tenn., introducing his statement as "the bad, the sad news."
"The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first one," Trump said. "This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach."
The Trump administration took more than a month to rewrite the travel ban order after multiple federal courts blocked its implementation last month.
Unlike the previous executive order, the new one removed Iraq from the list of banned countries, exempted those with green cards and visas, and removed a provision that arguably prioritizes certain religious minorities.
U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson concluded in no uncertain terms that the new executive order still failed to pass legal muster.
"The illogic of the Government's contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed," Watson wrote.
"Equally flawed is the notion that the Executive Order cannot be found to have targeted Islam because it applies to all individuals in the six referenced countries It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7 percent to 99.8 percent.
"It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not."
Several states and immigration advocates say the new order still suffers from legal flaws and asked federal judges to weigh in by issuing temporary restraining orders blocking the ban before Thursday.
Federal judges in Maryland and Washington state might also issue rulings Wednesday.
Judge points to cable news comments
In the ruling, Watson brought up claims the president and Stephen Miller, one of his top advisers and a reported architect of the original order, had made in cable news interviews.
Trump made plain his opposition to Islam in an interview last year, asserting: "I think Islam hates us."
When then-candidate Trump was asked to clarify if he meant Islam as a whole or just "radical Islam," Trump replied, "It's very hard to separate. Because you don't know who's who."
The judge cited this interview as an example of the "religious animus" behind the executive order and quoted Trump telling Cooper: "We can't allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States."
Likewise, the decision cited an interview Miller had on Fox News after the legal struggles of the first executive order, which the legal opponents of the ban had cited.
In a February interview, Miller downplayed any major differences the new executive order would have with the first and said it would be "responsive to the judicial ruling" holding it up and have "mostly minor technical differences."
"Fundamentally, you're still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country," Miller said.
"These plainly worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order's stated secular purpose," Watson wrote.
"Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, "secondary to a religious objective" of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims."
Changes not enough, judge says
The new ban was announced earlier this month and set to take effect Thursday. It would ban people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.
Watson said the changes made between the first and second versions of the travel ban weren't enough.
"Here, it is not the case that the Administration's past conduct must forever taint any effort by it to address the security concerns of the nation," he wrote.
"Based upon the current record available, however, the Court cannot find the actions taken during the interval between revoked Executive Order No. 13,769 and the new Executive Order to be "genuine changes in constitutionally significant conditions."
The Trump administration argues the ban is necessary to protect the nation's security.
"We cannot compromise our nation's security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said March 6.AlertMe