Donald Trump has fired the acting US attorney general, Sally Yates, after she questioned the legality of his immigration ban.
She was replaced by Dana Boente, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.Yates, who had been appointed under Barack Obama, earlier ordered justice department lawyers not to enforce the president’s executive order, but Boente on taking over, immediately issued a counter directive for the presidential order to be enforced.
President Trump’s order temporarily banned nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, and sparked street protests in the US and abroad.In a letter, Yates had said she was “not convinced” that the president’s order was lawful.
“As long as I am the acting attorney general, the department of justice will not present arguments in defence of the Executive Order,” she said.
Within hours, the White House announced that the President has relieved Yates of her duties.Trump’s chief press secretary, Sean Spicer, in a statement said the Attorney General had “betrayed the department of justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
The statement also described Yates as “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration”.
Her replacement, Boente, was also appointed by Barack Obama, in 2015 and was confirmed by the US Senate – making him eligible for appointment while President Trump waits for his own nominee, Jeff Sessions, to be approved.Sessions is awaiting a confirmation hearing for the role later this week.
Meanwhile, hundreds of diplomats and foreign servants have been drafting a”dissent cable” to formally criticise the president’s executive order.A draft version of the cable said that immigration restrictions will not make the US safer, are un-American and will send the wrong message to the Muslim world.
The ban bars citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Former President Barack Obama has apparently broken with the convention of former presidents of avoiding comment on their successors.
Commenting on the protests about the immigration order, President Obama said he was “heartened”.”Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organise and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake,” he said in a statement,which did not mention Trump by name.
President Trump also replaced the acting director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Daniel Ragsdale, who has been in the post since 20 January.He was replaced by Thomas Homan, who was former executive associate director of enforcement and removal.A statement from the department of homeland security announcing the change did not explain the reason for it.