Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates stunned observers late Monday by ordering the Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees in court.
The unusual act of defiance was all the more remarkable considering Yates, a DOJ veteran who is 56 years old, only assumed that role Jan. 20, when the administrations changed.
The White House ousted Yates Monday night following her show of defiance, appointing Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as acting attorney general instead.
Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Obama backs Trudeau in Canadian election Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE nominated Yates for deputy attorney general in December 2014, while she was serving as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
Yates was confirmed 84-12 by the Senate in May 2015, making her the DOJ’s No. 2 official under then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE (R-Ala.) was among the “no” votes, opposing Yates’s confirmation due to her support for Obama’s executive actions regarding immigration.
“I asked her directly ... at her confirmation hearing as a member of the Judiciary Committee, could she answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, did she support the president’s executive amnesty?” he said on May 13, 2015, according to Law360. "And basically, she said yes she did, as acting deputy attorney general she supervises that legislation and supports it."
Obama announced in November 2014 that he would take executive action to allow certain undocumented immigrants with children to remain in the U.S.
Monday's controversy involving Yates comes as Sessions is under consideration to be Trump’s attorney general.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Tuesday morning on whether to recommend Sessions be confirmed as America’s top law enforcement official.
Yates vowed Monday, before she lost her job, that the DOJ would not present arguments defending Trump’s executive order unless and until she became convinced it was appropriate to do so during her interim role.
“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but it is informed by our best view of what the law is after all consideration of the facts,” she said in a letter laying out her order to DOJ officials.
Trump signed an executive order last Friday barring citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S.
The measure also freezes general refugee admissions into the U.S. for 120 days and pausing Syrian refugee resettlement indefinitely.
Trump’s order has dominated global headlines, with Democrats and human rights organizations hammering it as unconstitutional and discriminatory against Muslims.