President Donald Trump has fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to enforce his executive order on immigration — in an incident some have already likened to Richard Nixon’s infamous 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre”:
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, has been named new acting attorney general, the White House said.
Boente was sworn in at 9 p.m. ET, per an 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.
The move set up a clash between the White House and Yates, who was appointed by President Barack Obama and was set to serve until Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is confirmed.
“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,” she said in a letter. “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.”
Trump’s executive order, signed Friday, bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days, suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee program. Yates’ decision came amid a flood of protests against the executive order nationwide and after four federal judges ruled against Trump’s order, staying its impact on people who were detained at US airports over the weekend.
A debate is now going on about whether her decision was an act of courage and due to legality or a political decision. What this means: the Sessions confirmation hearings are about to get much livelier.
But there is a sense of deja vu of what’s happening so soon in the Trump administration and how its choices are quickly defining it:
Reminders of Richard Nixon and 1930s and 1940s European history.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.