President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night after the Obama holdover refused to defend his controversial refugee ban in court.
The ouster came just hours after Yates said she would not defend in court the president’s executive order suspending immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.
“Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” said a statement from the White House that appeared to be in Trump’s own voice.
Trump appointed Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as acting attorney general until his nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, can be confirmed by the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Tuesday vote on Sessions, who has closely advised Trump on immigration matters.
Boente was immediately sworn in at 9 p.m. Monday. “I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected,” Boente said in a statement issued through the White House.
Yates was deputy attorney general under President Obama and has been serving as acting attorney general since Loretta Lynch resigned on Inauguration Day. She had refused to defend his executive order, which has been challenged in court by civil liberties groups who argue it discriminates on the basis of religion.
“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” said Yates in a letter to Justice Department attorneys. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.
“Consequently, for as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so,” wrote Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration.
Trump responded to Yates via Twitter, characterizing the action as a “political” move to block his agenda.
“Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons,” Trump tweeted. “They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.”
Source: USA Today | Kevin Johnson, Gregory Korte and Alan Gomez