- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended her former deputy Sally Q. Yates for questioning the legality of President Trump’s executive order banning refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries and refusing to defend the order in court.

“With her decision not to defend the executive order regarding immigration, Sally Yates displayed the fierce intellect, unshakeable integrity, and deep commitment to the rule of law that have characterized her 27 years of distinguished service to the Department of Justice under both Democratic and Republican administrations,” Ms. Lynch said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Her courageous leadership embodies the highest traditions of the Department of Justice, whose first duty is always to the American people, and to the Constitution that protects our rights and safeguards our liberties.”

Ms. Yates, a holdover appointee from the Obama administration who took over as acting attorney general when Ms. Lynch stepped down on Inauguration Day, wrote Monday in a letter to DOJ attorneys that she was not convinced Mr. Trump’s executive order was lawful and as a result was instructing DOJ attorneys not to defend the order in court. Signed into law Friday, the order has already been met with fierce resistance with numerous lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.

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 He immediately rescinded Ms.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‘ directive.

Mr. Trump’s 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.

While critics have referred to it as a Muslim ban, the administration has said the goal of the order is to cut off access to the United States from countries with histories of terrorism, with officials noting that 40 majority-Muslim countries were not included in the order.

Mr. Trump’s order does not explicitly ban Muslims from entering the U.S., but the order makes exceptions for people in religious minorities who are seeking to escape persecution in those seven majority-Muslim countries.

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