President Donald Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday night after she directed Justice Department lawyers not to defend his executive order on immigration.
The Trump administration said it had “relieved” Yates — who was deputy attorney general in the administration of President Barack Obama and stayed on as acting attorney general pending the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama — and named Dana Boente, 63, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve in the meantime.
Shortly afterward, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Daniel Ragsdale, the acting head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had also been replaced. Unlike the firing of Yates, the replacement of Ragsdale, who’d been ICE’s deputy director under Obama, came with no explanation. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel signed off on Trump’s order last week, but Yates said the office’s reviews don’t “address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.”
“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with the Justice Department’s responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” she wrote. “For as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, called Yates’ firing “very troubling” but said, “We will move forward. “After her principled stand, it will now be impossible for the White House to continue stating that our lawsuits have no
merit,” Gelernt said.