U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga ruled in favor of the president's revised executive order, which has already been blocked by two other courts, handing the White House a small win in the contentious immigration fight.
"It is no longer likely that Plaintiffs can succeed on their claim that the predominate purpose of [executive order 2] is to discriminate against Muslims based on their religion and that [the order] is a pretext or a sham for that purpose," the judge wrote.
Earlier this month, Trump's revised order -- designed to stand up to legal scrutiny -- was blocked by courts in Maryland and Hawaii on the grounds that it seeks the same type of discriminatory justification as the first order.
Friday, Trenga disagreed with that assessment.
"The President has provided a detailed justification for the Order based on national security needs, and enjoining the operation of EO-2 would interfere with the President's unique constitutional responsibilities to conduct international relations, provide for the national defense, and secure the nation," he wrote.
"This Court is no longer faced with a facially discriminatory order coupled with contemporaneous statements suggesting discriminatory intent. And while the President and his advisors have continued to make statements following the issuance of EO-1 that have characterized or anticipated the nature of EO-2, the Court cannot conclude for the purposes of the Motion that these statements, together with the President's past statements, have effectively disqualified him from exercising his lawful presidential authority."
The judge's ruling is limited in what it allows Trump's order to do. Most provisions remain blocked by court order.
The plaintiffs, activists affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, promised an appeal.
"Fortunately, this decision does not alter the injunctions that are already preventing the implementation of the Trump administration's illegal 'Muslim ban 2.0' executive order," CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri said in a statement. "We look forward to the Fourth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court weighing in on this matter, as those are the judicial bodies that will ultimately decide whether the Constitution protects the rights of Muslim Americans."
The U.S. Marshals Service is providing Watson protection and the FBI has offered to assist.