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Trump replaces acting attorney general for not backing travel ban

President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she ordered the Department of Justice not to defend legal challenges to the administration's travel ban.

By
Doug G. Ware and Stephen Feller
Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday directed lawyers at the Department of Justice to refrain from trying to defend President Donald Trump's controversial ban on U.S. travel for citizens of seven nations in the Middle East and Africa. Yates, a member of former President Barack Obama's government, is filling in the office as Trump nominee Jeff Sessions seeks confirmation. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday directed lawyers at the Department of Justice to refrain from trying to defend President Donald Trump's controversial ban on U.S. travel for citizens of seven nations in the Middle East and Africa. Yates, a member of former President Barack Obama's government, is filling in the office as Trump nominee Jeff Sessions seeks confirmation. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 30 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night, hours after she said the U.S. Department of Justice would not defend the president's travel ban on people from seven majority Muslim countries.

Trump replaced Yates with Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, after Yates said government lawyers won't argue the issue because she was uncertain whether the ban is legal.

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Boente will fill the position until Sen. Jeff Sessions' confirmation is voted on by the U.S. Senate later this week. The White House said it replaced Yates because she had "betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States."

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Boente told The Washington Post he planned to enforce the executive order, which Yates had refused to do because she had not been advised on it and was unsure it was legal.

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"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 wrote in a memo to Justice Department lawyers. "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."

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Trump ordered the travel ban on Friday in an executive action as a matter of guarding national security, his administration said. The executive order banned all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, banned Syrian refugees indefinitely and banned entry for people from seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days.

Thousands of protesters have demonstrated nationwide against the presidential order since Saturday, despite Trump's insistence that the measure is not anti-Muslim, but rather anti-terrorism.

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Yates, a holdover from former President Barack Obama's government, was serving as attorney general while Trump's nominee, Sessions, goes through the confirmation process. If he is confirmed, it's expected that he will comply with the president's order.

Trump's ban, however, already faces other legal challenges -- including a federal judge's injunction and potential lawsuits from more than a dozen states. Monday, Washington state became the first to sue Trump over the ban.

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