Donald Trump's best legal strategy: An apology

Unless a higher court disagrees that the first ban was intended to disfavor Muslims, Trump has a narrow path to proving that the second ban had a different intention.

One way for Trump to demonstrate his purpose has shifted is to show that he had a true change of heart. He would have to somehow convince a court that even if the first travel ban appeared to be motivated by a desire to broadly target a single religious group, the second one was primarily motivated by genuine national security concerns. This could prove difficult to do without some kind of apology for his previous statements, including those advocating a blanket ban on Muslim immigration and declaring his belief that “Islam hates us.” If Trump did acknowledge that consultation with national security experts helped him realize that his misguided call for a ban on all Muslims from entering the United States was a mistake based on his own religious prejudice, the order’s stated purpose of pausing immigration from regions with hard-to-vet nationals might have more credibility.

Don’t hold your breath. As the President once said, “I fully think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong.” Instead of issuing an apology, the President responded to the ruling by referencing the second ban as a “watered-down” version of its predecessor, and then stating that he still preferred the original order. Though it could be in his legal interest, it’s hard to believe that the President will reverse course any time soon, or that a court would take him seriously if he were to do so.