Acting AG tells DOJ lawyers not to defend Trump travel ban order
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates instructed Justice Department attorneys to not legally defend President Donald Trump's executive order on refugees and immigration.
Yates, an Obama appointee, is expected to be replaced by Trump's pick, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), in the near future. Meanwhile, courts in California, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington state have already been presented with cases challenging the order.
“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,” Yates wrote in a letter, according to the New York Times. “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.”
Trump responded to Yates' move on Twitter, calling it an example of Democrats' obstruction "for purely political reasons."
The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2017
“For as long as I am the acting attorney general," Yates wrote, "the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”
Yates said the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel gave a limited review of the order, but not on its potential ramifications.
“Importantly, it does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an executive order is wise or just,’’ she wrote. “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.’’
UPDATE: #WhiteHouse spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that 'deporting anyone' was not an aim of exec order https://t.co/3tVC1r0J5jpic.twitter.com/u9TTSrCrfA— RT America (@RT_America) January 30, 2017
Trump's executive order, signed Friday, halts the Syrian refugee resettlement program for 120 days and prohibits citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from US entry for 90 days.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) told CNN in an interview about the announcement. He added that a dozen Republicans have spoken out against the executive order, and called on GOP to join in not only repealing the ban but in voting against Sessions because he’s “anti-immigrant.”
“This [ban] is bad in itself but the way it was implemented, it didn’t look like the United States looked like it knew what it was doing,” Schumer said.