President Trump fired Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday night for ‘treasonous’ acts against the United States. The Acting Attorney General defied President Trump’s wishes to block potential terrorists from entering America by refusing to defend his controversial executive order in court.
The firing comes after the Obama supporting Democrat told Trump that she would not defend his decision to temporarily halt immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries – warning him she would undermine and ignore all of his orders.
Taking action in an escalating crisis for his 10-day-old administration, Mr. Trump declared that Sally Q. Yates had “betrayed” the administration, the White House said in a statement.
The president appointed Dana J. Boente, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as acting attorney general until Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is confirmed.
Ms. Yates’s decision confronted the president with a stinging challenge to his authority and laid bare a deep divide at the Justice Department, within the diplomatic corps and elsewhere in the government over the wisdom of his order.
“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,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers.
The extraordinary legal standoff capped a tumultuous day in which the White House confronted an outpouring of dissent over Mr. Trump’s temporary ban on entry visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, went so far as to warn State Department officials that they should leave their jobs if they did not agree with Mr. Trump’s agenda, after State Department officials circulated a so-called dissent memo on the order.
“These career bureaucrats have a problem with it?” Mr. Spicer said. “They should either get with the program or they can go.”
Ms. Yates’s decision effectively overruled a finding by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which had already approved the executive order “with respect to form and legality.”
Ms. Yates said her determination in deciding not to defend the order was broader, however, and included questions not only about the order’s lawfulness, but also whether it was a “wise or just” policy. She also alluded to unspecified statements that the White House had made before signing the order, which she factored into her review.
Mr. Trump responded to the letter with a post on Twitter at 7:45 p.m., complaining that the Senate’s delay in confirming his Cabinet nominees had resulted in leaving Ms. Yates in place. “The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons,” Mr. Trump said. “They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.”
One of Mr. Trump’s top advisers condemned the decision as an illustration of the politicization of the legal system. “It’s sad that our politics have become so politicized that you have people refusing to enforce our laws,” Stephen Miller, the senior policy adviser, said in a televised interview.
Mr. Trump has the authority to fire Ms. Yates, but as the top Senate-confirmed official at the Justice Department, she is the only one authorized to sign foreign surveillance warrants, an essential function at the department.
“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,” she wrote.
Ms. Yates’s letter transforms the confirmation of Mr. Trump’s attorney general nominee, Mr. Sessions, into a referendum on the immigration order. Action in the Senate could come as early as Tuesday.