President Donald Trump has fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for “refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” the White House said.
Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, has been named new acting attorney general, the White House said. Boente was sworn in at 9 p.m. ET, by an administration official.
The dramatic move came soon after CNN reported Yates told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.
That was the final straw for the Trump administration. Yates, who was appointed by President Barack Obama and was set to serve until Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is confirmed.
“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,” she said in a letter. “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.”
Trump’s executive order, signed Friday, bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days, suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee program. Yates’ decision came amid a flood of protests against the executive order nationwide and after four federal judges ruled against Trump’s order, staying its impact on people who were detained at US airports over the weekend.
Trump tweeted his response shortly after the news broke, saying Democrats have stymied Sessions’ confirmation, enabling Yates.
The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2017
Yates’ decision was always likely to be extremely short-lived as Sessions is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.