President Donald Trump fired the acting Attorney General Monday night when she refused to defend his executive action barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was just the first dismissal of the evening.
In an effort to bolster support for what has been a highly controversial executive action, President Trump is removing those who oppose him. After Yate’s dismissal, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Daniel Ragsdale (below) was fired.
AG Yates was an Obama appointee, and her tenure was guaranteed to end when President Trump’s choice for Attorney General gets confirmed. That role is currently slated for Jeff Sessions. Still, Yates was accused of a betraying America when she directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the immigration ban.
“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 had written in a statement Monday.
“In addition, 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,” she wrote.
“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,” she concluded.
As a stop-gap measure, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana Boente was sworn to replace Yates late Monday evening. AG Boente immediately issued an order reversing Yate’s directive.
“I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected,” Acting AG Boente said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a new leader, too. Thomas Homan now serves as Acting Director of the agency.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a statement that noted Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,’ Spicer said. ‘It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals traveling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”
Later, Spicer tweeted: “POTUS has named Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of VA as Acting Attorney General. Sally Yates has been relieved.”
Support for these sweeping actions is predictably split along party lines. Senator Ted Cruz blasted Yates, calling her actions “lawless.” In a rare show of support for President Trump, Cruz called his decision to fire Yates “exactly right.”
“After eight long years of a lawless Obama Department of Justice, it is fitting – and sad – that the very last act of the Obama DOJ is for the Acting AG to defy the newly elected President, refuse to enforce the law, and force the President to fire her,” Cruz posted on Facebook.
Yates, Cruz noted, is part of a long line of attorneys general who put politics above the law. He called Yate’s sedition evidence of an “ignominious succession” of politicized officials “who put brazen partisan interests above fidelity to law.”
Reaction from Democrats has cast Yates as a hero, willing to stand in the face of President Trump’s executive actions.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said Yates was a “person of integrity.”
“And this is a poor reflection on President Trump and his entire administration,” Schumer continued. “They put this together in a slapdash way, it’s almost as if they wrote it on the back of an envelope – they didn’t check its legality.”
“When you do something as important as this, it can’t be a Twitter-type activity,’ Schumer continued. ‘It’s a very bad omen for this presidency.”