On Monday evening the acting Attorney General Sally Yates ordered Justice Department lawyers not to defend challenges to President Trump’s immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven terror-laden countries and refugees from around the world, declaring in a memo she is not convinced the order is lawful.
Yates is an Obama appointee who is serving until Trump attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions is confirmed.
UPDATE Monday night: President Trump Fires Acting Attorney General
STATEMENT IN FULL
On January 27, 2017, the President signed an Executive Order regarding immigrants and refugees from certain Muslim -majority countries. The order has now been challenged in a number of jurisdictions. As the Acting Attorney General, it is my ultimate responsibility to determine the position of the Department of Justice in these actions.
My role is different from that of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which, through administrations of both parties, has reviewed Executive Orders for form and legality before they are issued. OLC’s review is limited to the narrow question of whether, in OLC’s view, a proposed Executive Order is lawful on its face and properly drafted. Its review does not take account of statements made by an administration or it surrogates close in time to the issuance of an Executive Order that may bear on the order’s purpose. And importantly, it does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.
Executive Order is lawful.
Consequently, 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.
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