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January 31, 2017

Trump’s Decision to Fire this Woman could be a “Major Breakdown in Law.”

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Sally Yates, acting Attorney General, has been sacked by U.S. President Donald Trump for refusing to defend Trump’s controversial executive order for an immigration ban.

Trump’s order temporarily bans citizens of seven countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days, suspends admission of refugees for 120 days and suspends the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.

Yates, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, had asked Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.

In a letter, Yates explained her reason for taking this action:

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, 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.”

She also added, “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.”

Hours after Yates sent this letter, she was informed of her dismissal via a hand-delivered letter.

Yates had previously agreed to act as the attorney general until Senator Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has chosen for that position, is confirmed by the Senate.

A statement issued by the White House Press Secretary’s office stated, “Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

Trump said Yates, who is the country’s top law enforcement official, “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

At 9 p.m. ET Monday, Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was sworn in to replace Yates until Sessions is approved.

A few hours later, Boente took steps to enforce the immigration order by releasing a statement instructing Department of Justice lawyers, “to do our sworn duty and defend the lawful orders of our President.”

After numerous individuals were detained at U.S. airports over the weekend, protests took place across the world to oppose Trump’s executive order. Four federal judges have already ruled against the order.

Trump responded to Monday’s events via Twitter, suggesting that the confirmation of his nominee for attorney general was being delayed deliberately.

“The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Wednesday, February 1, to decide if Sessions will be confirmed as the new attorney general. There are concerns within the committee as the panel’s top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has voiced concerns that Sessions may already have ties to Trump’s order for the travel ban. Feinstein said at a committee meeting today, “How could we possibly conclude that this nominee is going to be independent?”

Sessions has denied having any direct involvement in drafting Trump’s executive order for the ban explaining,”During the campaign, President Trump sought my and my staff’s input on a number of matters on which I have taken very public positions as a senator; however, it would be impossible for me to know the degree to which that input was relied upon in formulating or drafting the Executive Orders in question.”

Since Yates’ dismissal, social media has been flooded with reactions, many calling Yates a hero for standing up for what she believed in. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania tweeted, “Our nation owes her a debt of gratitude.”

Senator Ted Cruz defended Trump’s decision to fire Yates with a post on Facebook, “President Trump was exactly right to fire an acting Attorney General who refused to carry out her constitutional duty to enforce and defend the law.” Cruz’ post quickly received backlash, with the majority of people strongly disagreeing with his opinion.

On Monday, a dissent memo on Trump’s travel ban was being circulated by diplomats through the State Department. It has been reported that by Monday afternoon over 200 department officials had signed the memo, although the exact number is unknown as there are various versions of it circulating.

One section of the leaked memo explains:

“A policy which closes our doors to over 200 million legitimate travelers in the hopes of preventing a small number of travelers who intend to harm Americans from using the visa system to enter the United States will not achieve its aim of making our country safer. Moreover, such a policy runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants. We do not need to alienate entire societies to stay safe. And we do not need to sacrifice our reputation as a nation which is open and welcoming to protect our families.”

In keeping with this theme, Obama briefly returned to the political stage yesterday when his spokesman released a statement in support for those protesting the executive orders. The statement said, in part, that Obama was “heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,” and that he “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

In response to the protests across the country, Trump explained that he will “continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression,” but will “do so while protecting our own citizens and border.

According to Matthew Miller, who served as director of public affairs at the Department of Justice, Trump’s actions violate a “principle that everything else in our democracy depends on.” Miller took to twitter to explain: “In our democracy, the president is not supposed to dictate to the [attorney general] how to interpret the law,” adding, “This is a major breakdown in the rule of law.”

Miller also tweeted,

“A president who fires an AG over this will think he can fire an AG over, say, a probe into whether his campaign coordinated [with] Russia.”

 

Author: Alex Myles

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram; DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Editor: Nicole Cameron

 

 

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