The New York Times reports: Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, ordered the Justice Department on Monday not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration in court.
“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,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers. “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.”
The decision is largely symbolic — Mr. Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, is likely to be confirmed soon — but it highlights the deep divide at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the government over Mr. Trump’s order.
Mr. Trump has the authority to fire Ms. Yates, but as the top Senate-confirmed official at the Justice Department, she is the only one authorized to sign foreign surveillance warrants, an essential function at the department.
“For as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so,” she wrote.
In an interview on MSNBC, Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the president, reacted to the decision by Ms. Yates.
“That is a further demonstration about how politicized our legal system has become,” Mr. Miller said to Greta Van Susteren. “It’s sad that our politics have become so politicized that you have people refusing to enforce our laws.”
Ms. Yates was expected to inform the White House of her decision early Monday evening. There was no immediate response from the White House. But Mr. Trump is certain to react strongly to the open defiance to his authority.
Ms. Yates’s letter transforms the confirmation of Mr. Sessions as attorney general into a referendum on the immigration order. Action in the Senate could come as early as Tuesday.
The decision by the acting attorney general is a remarkable rebuke by a government official to a sitting president that recalls the dramatic “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusing to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: President Trump fired his acting attorney general on Monday after she defiantly refused to defend his immigration executive order, accusing the Democratic holdover of trying to obstruct his agenda for political reasons.
Taking action in an escalating crisis for his 10-day-old administration, Mr. Trump declared that Sally Q. Yates had “betrayed” the administration, the White House said in a statement.
The president appointed Dana J. Boente, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as acting attorney general until Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is confirmed.
Ms. Yates’s decision confronted the president with a stinging challenge to his authority and laid bare a deep divide at the Justice Department, within the diplomatic corps and elsewhere in the government over the wisdom of his order. [Continue reading…]