New US chief lawyer 'to defend Trump travel ban'
The new US acting attorney general vowed on Monday to defend President Donald Trump's controversial immigration order, hours after his predecessor was ousted for defying it.
Federal prosecutor Dana Boente was named to the position after Trump sacked Sally Yates, a Barack Obama appointee held over pending confirmation of Trump's nominee Jeff Sessions.
Yates had instructed Department of Justice lawyers not to defend the ban on immigration from seven Muslim nations.
"Based upon the Office of Legal Counsel's analysis, which found the Executive Order both lawful on its face and properly drafted, I hereby rescind former Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates January 30, 2017, guidance and direct the men and women of the Department of Justice to do our sworn duty and to defend the lawful orders of our President," Boente said in a statement.
The White House accused Yates of having “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States”.
It went on to describe Yates as “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration”.
“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,” the White House said in the statement.
The dramatic and unprecedented move came only hours after Yates sent a letter to DOJ lawyers saying she is not convinced the executive order signed by Trump on Friday is 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,” read Yates’ 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.
“For as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defence of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so,” Yates wrote.
Activists and campaigners opposed to Trump’s executive order took to social media to condemn the firing of Yates and to express their gratitude to her through the hashtag #ThankYouSally.