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People protest President Trump's travel ban outside the Supreme Court. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s most recent travel ban today in a 5-4 decision, ruling that it falls within the president’s traditional power to control immigration policy.

The big picture: This is the court’s first major ruling on a Trump policy — and it showed. As is the case with so much of his presidency, the justices’ fiercest disagreements over Trump’s policies were wrapped up with disputes about Trump himself.

Between the lines: The justices’ competing approaches to this case mirrored the broader partisan divides in electoral politics.

  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor, arguably the most outspoken member of the court’s liberal wing, said the travel ban “was motivated by anti-Muslim animus,” citing Trump’s public statements about Muslims. That should settle the legal debate, she said.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts, a traditional conservative, largely separated the policy from the president, saying it was easily defensible on its own merits.
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy, a more moderate conservative, ultimately voted with Roberts, but added a brief statement that seemed to criticize Trump’s rhetoric.
  • And all of that added up to a 5-4 decision, along partisan lines, in Trump’s favor.

The issue: Roberts, writing for the majority, said the federal immigration law at issue in this case “exudes deference to the President in every clause.” He detailed the process through which the administration arrived at the most recent version of the policy, and said it was more thorough than past presidents’ uses of the same authority.

  • Trump’s public statements about Muslims have to take a backseat to the reasoning laid out in the policy itself, Roberts said.
  • “The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements. It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility,” he wrote. “In doing so, we must consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself.”

The other side: Sotomayor read out loud at length from her dissent — a sign of particularly strong disagreement.

  • She said the travel ban is still the Muslim ban Trump talked about on the campaign trail, but “now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns,” and accused the majority of “ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”

Kennedy seemed to criticize Trump’s rhetoric while agreeing that it should not determine the outcome of this case.

  • “There are numerous instances in which the statements and actions of Government officials are not subject to judicial scrutiny or intervention,” he wrote. “That does not mean those officials are free to disregard the Constitution and the rights it proclaims and protects.”

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Go deeper

27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's latest executive order: Buy American

President Joe R. Biden speaks about the economy before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Friday, Jan 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services.

Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.

The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.