NEARLY a month after promising the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that he would “SEE YOU IN COURT”, Donald Trump has staged a lawyerly retreat from his executive order of January 27th. On March 6th the president revealed a fresh attempt at “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry”. The new order retains the original one’s core, limiting access to America’s shores for people from several Muslim-majority countries, and putting the refugee programme on hold—but has been softened in four ways.

First, the order exempts lawful permanent residents—those with a “green card”—from any travel restrictions. Second, whereas the first travel ban was implemented at the stroke of the presidential pen—causing chaos and confusion for people on flights to America when Mr Trump signed the order—the revision will not take effect until March 16th. Third, the revised order applies only to future visa applications, not to people already holding valid visas, or who manage to secure one before the deadline. Fourth, the list of seven banned countries has been whittled down to six: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Iraq was removed after its prime minister asked the White House why Iraqis fighting against IS in Mosul should be considered potential terrorists.

One of the legal troubles with the first travel ban seems to evaporate with this edited edition: the complaint that the order violates the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment. This apparent constitutional infirmity played a central role in the Ninth Circuit’s refusal to lift an injunction against the ban. By keeping lawful permanent residents out of America just because they happened to be travelling in a targeted country, the Ninth Circuit reasoned, the administration may have denied a class of people “notice and a hearing”. By giving ten days’ notice and lifting restrictions on green-card holders, the administration has probably immunised the new executive order from a due-process challenge.

Another potential constitutional roadblock is likely to plague Mr Trump’s new release, however: the claim of religious discrimination. The First Amendment prohibits the government from favouring one religion over another, and the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment bars it from discriminating on religious grounds. In its February ruling, the Ninth Circuit noted that “numerous statements by the president about his intent to implement a ‘Muslim ban’,” and evidence that the first order “was intended to be that ban” constituted a plausible case against the travel rules. “[E]vidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law” is fair game, the Ninth Circuit noted.

Mr Trump’s lawyers, in a clear sign that they recognise this embarrassing pedigree as a stumbling block, struck a key line from the January 27th order: a sentence permitting refugee applications from minorities (that is, Christians) who have been subject to “religious-based persecution”. The new executive order contains language insisting that this conspicuous deletion should not be misinterpreted. The original line “did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion”, the order reads, and “was not motivated by animus toward any religion.” This has the flavour of protesting too much. The thumbprint of Mr Trump’s campaign promise to ban Muslims from America (a call that remains on his website) will continue to mar this order and is certain to give rise to new lawsuits.

The original travel ban had a related problem: no lucid explanation of how the restrictions enhance national security. The new order does include a few sentences for each country (drawn from a State Department report of June 2016), purporting to “demonstrate why their nationals continue to present heightened risks to the security of the United States.” But the edit has the flavour of a student essay which, in its first version, contained no support for its thesis and has been patched up with a visit to a couple of websites. The logic behind categorical bans from particular countries remains as dubious as before.