WASHINGTON, DC -- President Donald Trump fired acting U.S. attorney general Sally Yates on Monday, only hours after she said the U.S. Department of Justice would not defend the president’s controversial immigration ban.
In a statement, the White House said Yates “has 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.
“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”
President Trump named Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general until, according to the White House, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions is approved by the Senate as the nation's new chief justice officer.
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
Boente was immediately sworn in at 9 p.m. Monday. "I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected,” Boente said in a statement issued through the White House.
The stunning series of events that rolled late into Monday evening drew immediate comparisons to the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, when then Attorney General Elliot Richardson chose to resign rather than obey President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Boente, like Yates, is also an appointee of President Obama. He supervises the prosecution of federal crimes and the litigation of federal civil matters, and is a 31-year veteran of the justice department.
Here is a link to Boente's bio from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Yates was deputy attorney general under President Obama and has been serving as acting acting attorney general since Loretta Lynch resigned on Inauguration Day.
Senate Democrats have objected to Sessions’ nomination, and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday on CNN that Sessions should have to disclose his opinion of Trump’s immigration order before the Senate votes on his nomination.
Trump's executive order had been reviewed by the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) before it was issued Friday. The OLC, whose authority narrowly addresses the form and whether the order is properly drafted, approved the order.
But the OLC “did not address whether any policy choice embodied in an executive order is wise or just,” Yates wrote. “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.”
Yates’ order follows a chaotic weekend where lawyers flooded courtrooms around the country to try and halt the deportation of people who had arrived after Trump signed his executive order. A federal judge in New York issued an emergency, nationwide stay late Saturday barring the federal government from any more deportations.
Immigration advocacy groups have started filing broader lawsuits challenging the overall legality of Trump’s order.