Trump fires Justice Dept. head over executive order defianceAccusing
her of betrayal and insubordination, President Donald Trump on Monday
fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general of the United States and a
Democratic appointee, after she publicly questioned the constitutionality
of his controversial refugee and immigration ban and
refused to defend it in court.The dramatic public clash between the new
president and the nation's top law enforcement officer laid bare the
growing discord and dissent surrounding Trump's executive order, which
temporarily halted the entire U.S. refugee program and banned all
entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.
The firing came hours after Yates directed Justice Department attorneys
not to defend the executive order, saying she was not convinced it was
lawful or consistent with the agency's obligation "to stand for what is
right." Trump soon followed with a statement accusing Yates of having
"betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order
designed to protect the citizens of the United States."
He immediately named longtime federal prosecutor Dana Boente, the U.S.
Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as Yates' replacement.
Boente was sworn in privately late Monday, the White House said. He
promptlyorder Justice Department lawyers to "do our sworn duty and to defend
thelawful orders of our President."Boente said Trump's executive order was
"both lawful on its face and properly drafted."Yates' refusal to
defend the executive order was largely symbolic given that Sen. Jeff
Sessions, Trump's pick for attorney general, will almost certainly
defend the policy once he's sworn in. He's expected to be confirmed
Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee and could be approved within
days by the full Senate.
The chain of events bore echoes of the Nixon-era "Saturday Night Massacre,"
when the attorney general anddeputy attorney general resigned rather than follow
an order to fire aspecial prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. The prosecutor,
Archibald Cox, was fired by the solicitor general.