Trump fires 2 top officials amid furore over immigration order (Roundup)
Washington, Jan 31 (IANS) Amid protests over his order to temporarily ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries coming into the US, President Donald Trump has sacked two top officials, including acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to defend the order against court challenges.
Announcing the dismissal of the nation’s top law officer on Monday night, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
Trump appointed Dana Boente, the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia, to take over Yates’ position. Boente said he would enforce the President’s directive until he was replaced by Trump’s Attorney General nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions.
The move came just hours after Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s immigration order, declaring in a memo that she was not convinced the order is lawful.
Yates wrote that, as the leader of the Justice Department, she must ensure that the department’s position is “legally defensible” and “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
“At present, I am not convinced that the defence of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that it (order) is lawful,” Yates wrote.
She further wrote that “for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defence of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”
Yates was a holdover from the Obama administration. She was delivered a one-line letter from the head of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, saying that she had been removed.
The White House criticised her as “an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration”, reported the Washington Post.
Democrats reacted with outrage to Monday night’s dramatic events, with Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers tweeting, “Trump has commenced a course of conduct that is Nixonian in its design and execution and threatens the long-vaunted independence of DOJ.”
“If dedicated gov officials deem his directives to be unlawful & unconstitutional, he will simply fire them as if gov is a reality show.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “What the Trump administration calls betrayal is an American with the courage to say that the law and the Constitution come first.”
But Trump’s former GOP rival, Senator Ted Cruz, jumped to the President’s defence.
“After eight long years of a lawless Obama Department of Justice, it is fitting — and sad — that the very last act of the Obama DOJ is for the Acting AG to defy the newly elected President, refuse to enforce the law, and force the President to fire her,” Cruz said in a statement.
Hours after firing Yates, Trump replaced acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Daniel Ragsdale with Thomas D. Homan. Ragsdale headed ICE since 2013.
US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said, “I am confident that he will continue to serve as a strong, effective leader for the men and women of ICE. I look forward to working alongside him to ensure that we enforce our immigration laws in the interior of the United States consistent with the national interest.”
Kelly’s statement did not mention the reason for replacing Ragsdale.
Earlier in the day, former President Barack Obama also weighed in on the executive action through a spokesman, backing those demonstrating against Trump’s decree and declaring his opposition to “discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”.
Obama said that he was “heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country” — an apparent reference to protests at airports nationwide. He also disputed Trump’s claim that his ban was based on Obama administration decisions.