President Trump Blasts “Delaying Democrats” As Acting AG Orders Justice Department Not To Defend Trump’s Refugee Order
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates ordered Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments in defense of President Trump’s executive order that temporarily suspends immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and north Africa.
Yates is a holdover from the Obama administration until Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate, which is expected to happen this week.
She made clear she has doubts about the legality of Trump’s decision to block travelers from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for 90 days; to suspend new refugee admissions; and to ban the acceptance of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
In a letter to lawyers currently handling cases filed to block the ban, Yates said that the department will not defend cases currently pending across the country as long as she is in charge:
JUST IN: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates issues letter saying Justice Dept. “will not present arguments in defense of” immigration order pic.twitter.com/B4HBOWQ12O
— ABC News (@ABC) January 30, 2017
Justice lawyers had been in courts all over the country this past weekend on the opposing side of refugees and travelers, often making weak arguments and stating they didn’t have enough information about the executive order and its legal underpinnings.
There was chaos — and protests — across the country over the weekend as the ban went into effect, with many people with valid visas and legal U.S. residents with green cards being denied entry and threatened with deportation. On Saturday night, federal Judge Ann Donnelly issued a stay on the deportations of valid visa holders.
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) January 31, 2017
As the news was breaking of the directive from Yates, Trump senior policy adviser told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren that her decision was “a further demonstration of how politicized our legal system has become.”
It’s very unusual for the Justice Department to refuse to defend a law or an executive order, though it isn’t unprecedented. During the Obama administration, for example, top officials decided not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2017
Trump could remove Yates, but there would be no one at the Justice Department who could sign Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, which would leave a big gap in national security.