President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates only hours after she instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend his controversial executive order restricting Muslim travel and immigration to the United States. The dramatic public clash between the new president and the nation’s top law enforcement officer laid bare the growing discord and dissent surrounding his executive order, which temporarily halted the entire US refugee program and banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.
The move refusing entry to those from Syria, Lybia, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan, set off massive protests at airports across the country.
The White House said in a statement that Ms Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
“This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel,” it said.
“Tonight, President Trump relieved Ms Yates of her duties.“
Yates said late on Monday that the Justice Department would not defend the order against court challenges, saying that she did not believe it would be “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
Yates, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, was serving as head of the Department of Justice until Trump’s replacement is confirmed by the Senate. Replacing Yates as the leader of the Justice Department will be Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, until the Senate confirms Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.
Mr Boente was sworn in privately, the White House said.
He said: “I am honoured to serve President Trump in this role…. I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected.”
.@POTUS has named Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of VA as Acting Attorney General. Sally Yates has been relieved.
— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) January 31, 2017
He’s expected to be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and could be approved within days by the full Senate.