Acting attorney general orders DOJ not to defend Trump's travel ban

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees in court.

Yates, a veteran of the department who was appointed by former President Obama, sent a letter Monday to officials in the department laying out her orders, the New York Times first reported. Shortly after, she was removed from the post by Trump. 

The extraordinary move by Yates comes at a time when Trump's immigration order, released late Friday, is reverberating across the government. More than 100 officials in the State Department have reportedly signed onto a draft memo protesting the policy, drawing a rebuke Monday from the White House.
 
Yates -- while she was still acting attorney general -- said the Department of Justice would not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order unless and until she becomes convinced that it is appropriate to do so.
 
"My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, 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," she wrote.a

"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." 

About an hour after the news of Yates's decision broke, Trump tweeted that Democrats were obstructing him and referred to an "Obama AG."
 
Shortly after, the White House sent a release announcing that Trump had "relieved Ms. Yates of her duties," and selected Dana Boente, a U.S. attorney from Virginia, to replace her. 

Senior Adviser to the President Stephen Miller said on MSNBC that Yates' action is a "demonstration of how politicized process has become."

The acting attorney general will be replaced within days, assuming President Trump's nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsHouse panel refers Clinton server company for prosecution Sessions to keep up fight on sanctuary cities despite legal setback Suspended Alabama judge running for Senate MORE (R-Ala.), is confirmed. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Tuesday morning on whether to recommend he be confirmed by the full Senate.

“This is a poor reflection on President Trump and his entire administration,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCruz: 'Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown' GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat Dems: Trump risks government shutdown over border wall MORE (D-N.Y.) said Monday evening on CNN, before Yates' firing. 

“Sally Yates is a person of integrity and I think she looked at the law regardless of her view,” he said, adding that the policy and the reaction are “a very bad omen for this presidency.”

“This is a constitutional crisis, it hurts the United States abroad, “ he added. 

The executive order Trump signed on Friday bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and denies entry for 90 days for all individuals from Syria and six other predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

A federal judge in New York on Saturday granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union, filed on behalf of two Iraqi men who were detained at John F. Kennedy Airport, to temporarily block the order. 

Yates' clash with the White House is reminiscent of the time Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus bucked President Richard Nixon’s order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal.

Nixon instead fired Cox himself and Ruckelhaus, and accepted Richardson's resignation on Oct. 20, 1973, in what became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

 

Updated 9:40 p.m.