Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night for “refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” the White House said.
“(Yates) has betrayed the Department of Justice,” the White House statement said.
Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was sworn in at 9 p.m. ET, per an administration official. A few hours later, Boente issued a statement rescinding Yates’ order, instructing DOJ lawyers to “defend the lawful orders of our President.”
Trump didn’t call Yates to dismiss her, she was informed by hand-delivered letter, according to a different administration official.
The dramatic move came soon after CNN reported Yates told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.
Read the full White House statement
Trump tweeted his response shortly after the news broke, saying Democrats have stymied Sessions’ confirmation, enabling Yates.
“The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.,” he said.
“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,” Yates wrote.
Yates’ decision was always likely to be extremely short-lived as Sessions is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
White House policy director Stephen Miller, who helped craft the executive order, called Yates’ decision “a further demonstration of how politicized our legal system has become.”
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“It’s sad that our politics have become so politicized, that you have people refusing to enforce our laws,” Miller said Monday night on MSNBC.
Miller also defended the executive order’s legality, insisting that the Immigration and Nationality Act gives the President “the ability to exclude any class of would-be visitors or immigrants to our country based on our national security interests.”
“This will be moot. Then we will very much see the Trump Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions defend this executive order pretty vigorously. And then it will be up to the courts,” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN contributor and law professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
In a written statement, Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch lauded Yates, calling her leadership “courageous.”
“(Yates) displayed the fierce intellect, unshakeable integrity, and deep commitment to the rule of law,” Lynch said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN’s Erin Burnett Monday the Justice Department decision reflects poorly on the Trump administration.
“When you do something as important as this, it can’t be a Twitter-type of activity,” Schumer said. “This has to be thoroughly vetted … and it’s a very bad omen for this presidency.”
Activists who have led the fight against Trump’s immigration ban lauded Yates’ action Monday night.
“We took to the court room, people took to the streets and now principled federal officials are drawing a hardline on this shameful and unconstitutional act by President Trump. This is what we rely on the Department of Justice for, to uphold the rule of law no matter how the political wind is blowing,” said Karen Tumlin, the National Immigration Law Center’s legal director.
Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued against the immigration ban in court in New York, praised Yates’ decision and called on the next attorney general to “continue with that policy.”
“This ban will do irreparable damage to real people and to American values,” he said.