Donald Trump’s acting Attorney General was fired this evening after she refused to defend his executive order on immigration. As Townhall reports:
President Donald J. Trump has fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates hours after she penned a letter announcing that the Department of Justice would not defend his executive order on immigration.Yates had expressed doubts over the order’s legality.
“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 wrote in a letter. “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.” U.S. Attorney Dana Boente replaced Yates (via Politico):
President Donald Trump fired the nation’s acting attorney general Monday night after she refused to defend an executive order he issued last week restricting immigration in the name of national security.
In an act of high political drama just ten days after taking office, Trump replaced Obama administration appointee Sally Yates with the U.S. Attorney in Alexandria, Va., Dana Boente.
The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel,” a White House statement said. “Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”
This is going to be read as some sort of controversial, unprecedented move, but it isn’t. Simply put, the AG’s job is to enforce administration policy. Government officials who refuse to enforce laws on the books undermine the rule of law. Conservatives who watched the Obama administration refuse to defend laws they didn’t agree with were happy with the decision.
Not only should Trump fire Sally Yates, he should be able to fire ANYONE in the exec branch who does not follow his policies. #EndPendleton
— Inez Stepman (@InezFeltscher) January 31, 2017
“I am not convinced” is not an appropriate basis for the AAG to decide not to defend the law.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) January 31, 2017
15/ The President’s oath to support & defend the Constitution matters. If his appointees (or worse, holdovers) disagree, they should resign
— Josh Blackman (@JoshMBlackman) January 31, 2017
Writing at the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler points out just why Yates’ decision was so troubling:
A few quick observations. First, the statement seems to indicate that the executive order was reviewed by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which apparently concluded that the executive order was lawful. Second, Yates does not claim that she cannot defend the executive order because it is unconstitutional or because the Justice Department would be unable to offer good-faith arguments in defense of its legality. To the contrary, Yates claims she is ordering the Justice Department not to defend the executive order because it is not “wise or just.” This is quite significant. I am not aware of any instance in which the Justice Department has refused to defend a presumptively lawful executive action on this basis.
The only thing unprecedented about this is Yates’ arrogance.