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Yates: Trump travel ban was ‘unlawful’

Yates: Trump travel ban was ‘unlawful’
© Greg Nash

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates derided President Trump’s travel ban as “unlawful” on Monday, standing by her decision to order the Justice Department not to defend the initial order in court. 

She was ultimately fired by Trump over her resistance to the February executive order, which temporarily halted travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and eventually was rewritten.

"In looking at what the intent was of the executive order — which was derived in part of an analysis of facts outside of the face of the order — that is part of what led to our conclusion that it was not lawful," she told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee when pressed by Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Cruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Texas).

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During one tense moment — in which Cornyn appeared to mishear Yates — she took the mic to clarify, “Senator, I did not say it was lawful. I said it was unlawful.”

Cornyn called it "enormously disappointing" that Yates overruled the White House Office of Legal Counsel's determination that the travel ban was legal because she disagreed with the policy.

“Let me make one thing clear: It was not purely as a policy matter," Yates replied as she calmly argued that she was doing what she had promised Cornyn and other Judiciary Committee lawmakers she would do during her confirmation hearings.

“You specifically asked me if the president asked me to do something that was unlawful and unconstitutional, would I say no?” she said.

“I looked at this, I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful. I also thought it was inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice. And I said no.”