Trump fires chief US lawyer for defying migrant ban
In a sharply worded statement, the White House called Sally Yates “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration” and also criticized Democrats for not yet confirming the appointment of attorney general-designate Jeff Sessions.
“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,” the White House said in a statement.
“This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel,” it said.
“Tonight, President Trump relieved Ms Yates of her duties.”
Federal prosecutor Dana Boente will serve as acting attorney general “until Senator Jeff Sessions is finally confirmed by the Senate, where he is being wrongly held up by Democrat senators for strictly political reasons,” it said.
With Trump’s White House facing multiple lawsuits and worldwide opprobrium over an order banning migrants from seven Muslim-majority nations, Yates had whipped the rug from under her boss in a defiant and damaging parting shot.
In a memo to Department of Justice staff, Yates - a career government lawyer promoted by former President Barack Obama - expressed doubts about the legality and morality of Trump’s decree, which has prompted mass protests.
“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,” Yates wrote.
“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,” she added.
“For as long as I am the acting attorney general, 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’s directive meant that the government, for a few hours, had no authorized courtroom representation in lawsuits challenging the ban.
In a statement issued hours after his appointment, Boente said he would defend the president’s directive.
“Based upon the Office of Legal Counsel’s analysis, which found the Executive Order both lawful on its face and properly drafted, I hereby rescind former Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates Jan. 30, 2017, guidance and direct the men and women of the Department of Justice to do our sworn duty and to defend the lawful orders of our President,” Boente said in a statement.
Sessions has not yet been confirmed by Congress. He faces a vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 31 and must then be confirmed by the full Senate.
If confirmed, Sessions would almost certainly reverse course. But Democrats are racing to respond to the wave of liberal outrage triggered by Trump, jumping into protests, organizing rallies and vowing to block more of the new president’s nominees - including, possibly, his pick for the Supreme Court.
The order signed on Jan 27, suspended the arrival of all refugees for a minimum of 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.
In a separate late-night move announced without explanation by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Trump also replaced acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Daniel Ragsdale.
Pentagon to seek Iraqi reprieve from travel ban
The U.S. Defense Department pledged Jan. 30 to lobby for U.S. entry of Iraqis who supported the American military after the travel ban decision.
The Pentagon is working on a list of names of Iraqis who have worked for the U.S. military, including fighters and translators, “often doing so at great peril for themselves,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told a news conference.
Iranian Foreign Minister reiterated on Jan. 31 that Iran would no longer issue visas for Americans, describing the decision as a “counter-action” to Trump’s executive order.
Zarif added that “if there is an exception, it will be reviewed through the mechanism which has been created in the Foreign Ministry.”
On the same day, European Union chief Donald Tusk hit out at “worrying” statements by the administration of Trump, saying Washington’s new stance was among a series of “threats,” along with China, Russia and radical Islam.
Tusk said in a letter to EU leaders ahead of a summit in Malta that the bloc must take “spectacular steps” to stay together, and should take advantage of U.S. isolationism to boost trade with other countries.
Meanwhile, the White House said Jan. 31 that Trump would continue to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace.
An executive order signed by Obama in 2014, which protects employees “from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”