WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court on Tuesday grilled Trump administration pertaining to the travel ban executive order and questioned whether the ban unfairly targeted people based on their religion.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hurled a barrage of questions at a government lawyer inquiring whether the Trump administration’s national security argument was bolstered by evidence that people from the seven countries posed a danger to US.

August Flentje defending Trump’s executive order

, representing the Trump administration as special counsel for the U.S. Justice Department, argued before the panel that “Congress has expressly authorised the president to suspend the entry of categories of aliens” for national security reasons.

“That’s what the president did here,” Flentje said at the start of the hearing.

When the 9th Circuit asked Flentje about supporting evidence regarding terrorism linkage with citizens from Muslim countries, Flentje said the “proceedings have been moving very fast,” without giving specific examples.

He claimed both Congress and the previous administration of Obama had determined that those seven countries posed the greatest risk of terrorism and had in the past put stricter visa requirements on them.

‘I am not sure I’m convincing the court,’ Flentje said at one point.

Noah Purcell, the solicitor general for the state of Washington, kicked off his argument urging the court to serve as a check on executive abuses.

‘The president is asking this court to abdicate that role here. The court should decline that invitation’ Purcell said.

The judges pressed both sides with questions. Clifton pushed both attorneys about whether there was evidence the ban was intended to discriminate against Muslims.

‘I don’t think allegations cut it at this stage,’ Clifton told Purcell.

Clifton later questioned Flentje after the attorney argued the Seattle judge had second-guessed Trump’s order based on some newspaper articles.

The judge referred to recent televised statements by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who advised Trump during his campaign and transition, that the president had asked him for advice about implementing a legal Muslim ban.

“Do you deny that in fact the statements attributed to then candidate Trump and to his political advisers and most recently Mr. Giuliani,” Clifton asked.

‘Do you deny that those statements were made?’ he further asked.

The 9th Circuit said at the end of the session it would issue a ruling as soon as possible. Earlier on Tuesday, the court said it would likely rule this week but would not issue a same-day ruling.

It is relevant to mention that Trump’s executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim countries was put to halt by a Seattle judge.

Trump administration filed an appeal against the verdict, however, the appeal was also dismissed. The matter was likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.