Trump fires Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for questioning legality of refugee & Muslim ban
President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to defend the president’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.
Yates issued a memo instructing Justice Department staff to not defend Trump’s executive order being challenged in federal courts around the country, expressing her concerns that Trump’s immigration ban was unwise, unjust, and unlawful “after consideration of all the facts”.
“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. 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,” wrote Yates. “Consequently, 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.”
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Hours after Yates’s memo became public, Trump replaced her with Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who immediately rescinded Yates’s orders. Boente noted that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel had found Trump’s order “lawful on its face and properly drafted”.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer compared Yates’s swift dismissal to President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Watergate scandal.
“We had a Monday night massacre. Sally Yates, a person of great integrity who follows the law, was fired by the president. She was fired because she would not enact, pursue the executive order on the belief that it was illegal, perhaps unconstitutional,” said Schumer. “It was a profile in courage. It was a brave act and a right act.”
Schumer criticized the president for his cavalier approach to governing and disregard for the rule of law.
“We cannot have a Twitter presidency. We cannot have a presidency that thinks, “Oh, this sounds good. Let’s just go do it” and not think the consequences through,” said Schumer. “And most of all, we cannot have a presidency that doesn’t understand the beauty and depth of America, in this case, when it comes to immigrants.”
During Yates’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2015, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) urged Yates to say “no” to the president (referring to Barack Obama) if what he sought in his orders are “unlawful” or “improper”.
“You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things that you just need to say “no” about,” advised Session, who is currently Trump’s nominee for Attorney General.
Yates agreed. “I believe that the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president,” she told Sessions.
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