- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Justice Department on Thursday released a copy of the memo that showed that the Office of Legal Counsel had signed off on President Trump’s controversial executive order on travel and refugees, despite claims by the acting attorney general that she couldn’t defend it as legal in court.

Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, a holdover appointee from the Obama administration, wrote Monday in a letter to DOJ attorneys that she did not think Mr. Trump’s executive order was lawful and accordingly ordered DOJ attorneys not to defend Mr. Trump’s “extreme vetting” decision in court.

The OLC memo was dated Jan. 27, the same day Mr. Trump signed the order into law.

But the memo gives little insight into the exact legal analysis of the order, with Acting Assistant Attorney General Curtis Gannon summarizing the order and concluding “the proposed order is approved with respect to form and legality.”

Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in a statement Thursday that it is a longstanding practice that the Office of Legal Counsel to “not identify or contain substantive analysis of issues that were evaluated in the course of the review” in such form-and-legality paperwork.

The executive order indefinitely halts the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. and temporarily bars nearly all citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from traveling to the U.S. Signed into law Friday, the order has already been met with fierce resistance with numerous lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.

Ms. Yates attempted to torpedo Mr. Trump’s order de facto, acknowledging that while the OLC reviews an order to determine whether it is “lawful on its face” that the review “does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.”

Ms. Yates said she had the authority to determine whether an executive order is “not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts.”

“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,” she continued.

Within hours of issuing the memo, Mr. Trump fired Ms. Yates, calling her actions a betrayal of the Justice Department and referring to her as an Obama appointee “who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente, was appointed to take Ms. Yates‘ place as acting attorney general. He immediately rescinded Ms. Yates’s directive.

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended Ms. Yates actions, saying her displayed “fierce intellect, unshakeable integrity, and deep commitment to the rule of law.”

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