President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she defied him on his executive order on immigrants and refugees, according to a statement White House press secretary Sean Spicer issued Monday night.
“The acting attorney general, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” the statement said.
Trump named Dana Boente, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve in Yates’ place until the president’s nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is confirmed.
Shortly after taking the post, Boente said, “I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected.”
Earlier Monday, Yates denounced Trump’s executive order in a letter to Justice Department lawyers, saying it may not be lawful.
“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,” Yates said in the letter.
“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.”
“For as long as I am the Acting Attorney General…” pic.twitter.com/UpWbRJYaeL
— Marc Ambinder (@marcambinder) January 30, 2017
Trump’s executive action, authorized Friday, calls for a temporary halt on all refugees coming to the US and bars the entry of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries. The order has sparked protests in streets and airports across the US and has been roundly condemned by members of both major parties. Trump spent Monday vigorously defending the order.
Trump criticized Yates in a tweet Monday evening:
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’ directive was mostly symbolic, as it would have been enforced only until she left office. Sessions is expected to be confirmed later this week.