Acting Attorney General Fired After Defying Trump

January 31, 2017

Sally Q. Yates refused to defend Trump’s new immigration policy.

Only ten days into his presidency, Donald Trump is already facing unprecedented opposition to his leadership of the United States.

In the wake of widespread condemnation of his new immigration policy – namely, the Muslim Ban and the closing of U.S. borders to refugees – acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates was removed from her position late Monday night for refusing to defend Trump’s executive orders.

Before being fired, Yates made it clear that as long as she was in charge, the Department of Justice would not defend Trump’s executive order to close the borders, “unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

“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’s letter to attorneys at the Justice Department stated.  “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.”

Dana J. Boente was sworn in just before Yates was given the news of her dismissal. In his first act as deputy attorney general, Boente rescinded Yates’s order.

Yates was appointed by President Obama, and had been acting as attorney general for the past eight months. Trump had asked her to stay on in the position until his nominee, Jeff Sessions, could be confirmed.

Predictably, Trump took to Twitter to sound off about the situation.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued an official statement saying Yates had failed to fulfill her duty to protect the citizens of the United States. “It’s time to get serious about protecting our country,” said Spicer. 

But Democrats said Yates was just doing her job. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer took a page from Trump’s book and tweeted his thoughts on the matter, calling the current administration’s behavior “chilling.”

Newly appointed deputy attorney general Boente is expected to fully defend the new immigration policy. Meanwhile, former Justice Department officials are reportedly nervously anticipating what other atrocities will happen within the agency once Sessions takes over.

Image via A. Katz / Shutterstock, Inc.

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