Fired: Trump dumps top lawyer who defied immigration order

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By Roberta Rampton and Julia Edwards Ainsley | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump fired top
federal government lawyer Sally Yates on Monday after she took
the extraordinarily rare step of defying the White House and
refused to defend new travel restrictions targeting seven
Muslim-majority nations.

It was another dramatic twist in the unusually raucous
roll-out of Trump’s directive that put a 120-day hold on
allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on
refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran,
Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Friday night ban prompted protests and chaos at airports
on the weekend as customs officials struggled to put the order
into practise, and the fallout spread to U.S. markets on Monday, where stocks suffered their biggest drop of 2017 and companies
affected by the change spoke out against it.

Yates said late on Monday that the Justice Department would
not defend the order against court challenges, saying that she
did not believe it would be “consistent with this institution’s
solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is

Hours later, she was fired. The White House said Yates “has
betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a
legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United
States” and portrayed her actions as political.

Trump has argued tougher vetting of immigrants is needed to
protect America from terror attacks but critics complain that
his order unfairly singles out Muslims and defiles America’s
historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants.

Yates, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack
Obama, was days away from being replaced by Trump’s pick for the
top spot at the Justice Department, Republican Senator Jeff
Sessions, who is awaiting Senate confirmation.

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak
on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the White
House said in a statement.

The White House said that Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the
Eastern District of Virginia, was sworn in at 9 p.m. ET and
would be acting U.S. attorney general until Sessions is

Boente said in an interview with the Washington Post that he
would enforce the immigration order.


There have been only a handful of instances in U.S. history
of top Justice Department officials publicly breaking with the
White House.

The most famous example was in 1973, when then-Attorney
General Elliot Richardson and his deputy resigned rather than
obey President Richard Nixon’s order to fire a special
prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

The incident, which became known as the “Saturday Night
Massacre,” was a public relations disaster and is seen as a
turning point in Nixon’s administration.

The drama at the Justice Department is another sign of how
hastily Trump’s immigration order was developed and how little
it was reviewed by the agencies now grappling to implement it.

The White House said key government officials were briefed
before Trump signed the order on Friday, but there was little
coordination or consultation, resulting in confusion. Most State
Department officials found out about it from media reports.

Officials from the State Department circulated a draft memo
of dissent on Monday, saying Trump’s move would hurt America’s
image abroad and inflame anti-American sentiment.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer dismissed the memo. “These
career bureaucrats have a problem with it? I think that they
should either get with the program or they can go,” he told
reporters at his daily briefing.

An internal Department of Homeland Security document seen by
Reuters showed 348 visa holders were kept from boarding
U.S.-bound flights this week, and more than 200 people came to
the United States but were denied entry.

More than 735 people were pulled aside for questioning by
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at airports,
including 394 green card holders, who are legal permanent
residents of the United States, the document said.

Trump’s administration is granting waivers from the refugee
ban to allow 872 people into the country this week – refugees
that had already been cleared for resettlement in the United
States and were in transit when the order came out.

Tens of thousands of people protested Trump’s order in major
American cities and at airports on the weekend.

Obama took the rare step of weighing in, saying through a
spokesman that he was heartened by the political activism on the

Employees of Alphabet Inc’s Google in San
Francisco, Mountain View, Seattle and other cities held
protests. Backed by a sign that said “We are a nation of
immigrants,” Sergei Brin, president of Alphabet, said he was
outraged by the order.

“The U.S. had the courage to take me and my family in as
refugees,” he said in a YouTube video of his remarks.


Federal judges blocked deportation of those detained under
the order through the weekend, and more lawsuits were filed on

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s
biggest Muslim advocacy group, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf
of more than 20 people.

Washington state filed a lawsuit, arguing that Trump’s order
violates the equal protection clause and the First Amendment of
the U.S. Constitution. Several other Democratic state attorneys
general have said they are considering legal action.

“It is an insult and a danger to all of the people of the
state of Washington, of all faiths,” Washington state Governor
Jay Inslee, a Democrat, told reporters. Inc and Expedia Inc, both of
which are based in Washington state’s Seattle area, are
supporting the state’s suit.

Amazon scrapped a business trip for a senior company lawyer
who was born in Libya but has UK citizenship, according to a
declaration filed in support of the lawsuit. Forty-nine of its
employees were born in one of the banned countries, and seven
new hires may need to be placed in offices outside the United
States, it said.

A declaration from Expedia said the order could impact the
travel itineraries of at least 1,000 customers, costing it
refunds as well as expenses to monitor how the order is applied
and who exactly is affected.

The U.S. technology industry, a major employer of foreign
workers, has been the most vocal corporate opponent to Trump’s
order. A group of top companies plans to meet on Tuesday to
discuss how best to support legal challenges.

(Additional reporting by Dan Levine and Jeffrey Dastin in San
Francisco, Eric Beech, Doina Chiacu, Arshad Mohammed, Susan
Heavey, Mark Hosenball and Patricia Zengerle in Washington,
Jonathan Allen in New York, Brian Snyder in Boston, and Sharon
Bernstein in Sacramento)

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