WASHINGTON – Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday ordered attorneys at the Department of Justice not to defend President Donald Trump’s executive order barring US entry to refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.
In a letter sent to the attorneys in the Justice Department, Yates said she was not “convinced” that the executive order Trump signed last Friday was “lawful.”
Yates is an appointee from the Barack Obama administration and is serving as acting attorney general until the US Senate confirms Trump’s nominee for the post, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.
“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 told the Justice Department attorneys in the 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,” she added.
Lawsuits against the order have been filed in Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and California.
Trump could fire Yates over her largely symbolic gesture but, if he did so, the post would remain vacant until Sessions – who will probably reverse her decision, as expressed in her letter – is confirmed.
The magnate sparked enormous controversy and confusion, both domestically and abroad, last Friday by signing the executive order designed to combat jihadist terrorism.
The order suspends for 120 days the entry of all refugees and the issuing of visas for 90 days for citizens from seven countries, which have histories of terrorism and terrorist activity – Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran – until new mechanisms can be put in place to screen them more effectively.
Meanwhile, Obama said he is “heartened” by American civic engagement against the crackdown on immigration ordered by his successor in the White House, his spokesman Kevin Lewis said Monday in a statement.
“Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake,” Lewis said in presenting the first message from Obama since he left the White House.