MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We'll start the program today in Florida, where President Trump is watching the Super Bowl at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla. He's also gearing up for a legal showdown over his call for a temporary travel ban directed at refugees and residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries. That travel ban is on hold for now, pending further review by a federal appeals court. Refugees and others who could be affected are rushing to make their way to the United States before the clock runs out. NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president and joins us now from Florida. Hi, Scott. Thanks for joining us.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you.
MARTIN: So as the lawyers are drafting their arguments, the president has been making his case via Twitter. What's he been saying?
HORSLEY: This afternoon, Trump tweeted (reading), just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad.
Now, I should say right at the outset, Michel, people are not pouring into the country uncontrollably. Refugees and visitors are still subject to screening, and only those with valid visas are allowed in. But the judge Trump's complaining about here is James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee who put his temporary travel ban on hold.
Late last night, the Justice Department asked an appeals court to reverse the judge's order, but the appeals court rejected that request and instead told both sides to file some additional arguments with a deadline of 3 p.m. tomorrow West Coast time. So that means at least for today and most of tomorrow, the door to qualified visitors stays open.
MARTIN: Now, it seems to be emerging that the administration tried to impose this without much consultation with Congress. What are congressional leaders saying?
HORSLEY: There has certainly been some concern among lawmakers with the breadth of the president's travel ban, its fairly chaotic rollout, and now with Trump's aggressive attack on a federal judge who challenged it. It's not just Democrats who are unhappy. The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, went on CNN today. And while he didn't come right out and criticize the president's policy, he didn't exactly embrace it either. Take a listen.
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MITCH MCCONNELL: We all want to try to keep terrorists out of the United States, but we can't shut down travel. We certainly don't want Muslim allies who've fought with us in countries overseas to not be able to travel to the United States. We need to be careful about this.
HORSLEY: The Justice Department is arguing in its court filings that enforcement of immigration law is a purely executive function. And right now, Michel, it seems like the executive branch is kind of on its own. Trump is not getting a lot of backup either from the judiciary or from his friends in Congress.
MARTIN: You know, the president also raised some eyebrows with comments he made about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Can you tell us more about that?
HORSLEY: The people who tuned in early for tonight's Super Bowl saw an interview the president taped with Fox News "The O'Reilly Factor." He said once again that he hopes to build a good relationship with Vladimir Putin, so they can team up against the Islamic State. Bill O'Reilly pressed Trump on why he feels comfortable working with someone with Putin's reputation, and Trump seemed to brush that aside.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")
BILL O'REILLY: Putin's a killer.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What? You think our country's so innocent?
HORSLEY: Now, Trump's consistent defense of Vladimir Putin puts him at odds with many leaders in the GOP, but some Republicans were especially critical of this interview in which Trump appeared to be saying the United States is no better than Russia or its leader. Senator Marco Rubio, for example, tweeted (reading), when has a Democratic political activist been poisoned by the GOP, or vice versa?
The Florida Republican added, we are not the same as Putin. And, Michel, that's just one example of the criticism that's been leveled at this interview.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Scott Horsley traveling with the president in Florida. Scott, thank you.
HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.