WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump has fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she ordered Justice Department attorneys to stop defending Trump’s travel ban.
“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 White House said in a statement on Monday night. “This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.”
Trump’s 90-day ban, imposed on Friday, affects travel to the United States by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The order also suspends refugee admissions for 120 days, and indefinitely bars the processing of refugees from Syria.
It is up to the Justice Department to defend the order in court, the acting Attorney General – who was appointed by President Barack Obama – said no.
“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. “I am not convinced that the executive order is lawful (so) the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced that Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, will take over as acting Attorney General.
“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the White House statement said late Monday. “It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”
Trump also removed acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Daniel Ragsdale from his position Monday night. It is not clear if that is related to the rollout of the immigration and refugee restrictions.
Taking Ragsdale’s place is Thomas Homan, who had been executive associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.
A Department of Homeland Security news release said Homan had been in charge of ICE’s efforts to “identify, arrest, detain, and remove illegal aliens, including those who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts.”
Immediately after the ban was imposed, some citizens of the seven affected countries were denied flights to America. A total of 109 people were detained after landing and later released.
Meanwhile, the travel ban has now triggered criticism from former President Barack Obama. A spokesperson wrote, “The president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
Many critics said the order was cruel and useless.
“The average American is about 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to being victimized by a refugee who has been let into this country,” said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y). “We have serious vetting that already takes place.”
But polls showed significant support for the immigration and refugee restrictions.
Spicer earlier Monday said the reaction is overblown.
“There were 325,000 people who came into the country over a 24-hour period from another country; 109 were stopped for additional screening,” Spicer said. “We’ve got to keep this in proportion, folks.”
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