President Donald Trump fired acting US Attorney General Sally Yates after she defied him on his controversial executive order on immigrants and refugees, according to a statement White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued Monday night.
“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” the statement read in part.
Yates — an appointee of former President Barack Obama — told the Justice Department earlier Monday not to defend Trump’s executive order.
Yates, who was set to be replaced by Trump’s appointee Jeff Sessions once he’s confirmed, denounced the executive order in a letter to Justice Department lawyers, saying it may not be lawful.
“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 said in the letter.
“At present, I am not convinced that the defence of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”
Trump’s executive action, authorised on Friday, calls for a temporary halt on all refugees coming to the US, and bars the entry of foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order has sparked protests in streets and airports across the country, and has been roundly condemned from members of both parties. Trump spent the day Monday vigorously defending the order.
Trump criticised Yates in a tweet Monday evening:
Yates’s directive was generally a symbolic one and would only have been enforced until she left office. Sessions is expected to be confirmed later this week.
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
NOW WATCH: ‘This is not about religion’: Trump defends his immigration ban as thousands protest around the US
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.