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Justice Department wants its appeal of old Trump travel ban tossed; Washington state’s Ferguson reacts

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a press conference outside U.S. District Court, Western Washington, on February 3, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Ferguson filed a state lawsuit challenging key sections of President Trump's immigration Executive Order as illegal and unconstitutional. (Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department wants to dismiss its appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s initial travel ban.

The agency filed a motion Tuesday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a day after Trump signed a revised ban, which goes into effect March 16. The government agreed to pay the costs of the case and said Washington state and Minnesota, who sued over the original executive order, agreed to the motion.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an email that the move confirms his position that the original ban signed in late January was unconstitutional. He said a day earlier that his office was reviewing the new version to determine whether to oppose it.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw their appeal — and pay our costs — confirms what I said yesterday:  The President’s original travel ban was unconstitutional,” Ferguson said in a news release. “Contrary to President Trump’s indefensible criticisms of the judiciary, his concession today admits that Judge Robart got it right when he enjoined the original Executive Order.”

The new ban is narrower and seeks to ease concerns about violating the due process rights of travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations.

It temporarily bars new visas for citizens of Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. Iraq was dropped from the list of countries.

Trump officials say their goal is the same: to keep would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews how refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world are vetted.

Washington and Minnesota argued in their lawsuit that the original ban illegally targeted people on the basis of religion. U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle put it on hold while the case moved forward.

The Justice Department appealed to the 9th Circuit, where a three-judge panel denied a request to reinstate the ban. The government’s opening brief in its appeal was due Friday.

The appeals court was evaluating the new order’s effect on the existing case, a spokesman said Monday. The Justice Department filed papers that day in federal court in Seattle arguing that the restraining order should not block the new ban from taking effect.

In Monday’s motion before the original judge, the government said it followed the 9th Circuit’s ruling and guidance to “substantially” revise the immigration order.