- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The White House on Tuesday defended use of the word “betrayed” to explain the firing of Sally Q. Yates, who was removed as acting attorney general after refusing to enforce President Trump’s extreme-vetting program.

Asked by reporters about the characterization of Ms. Yates’ actions, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said it was not only a betrayal but also “clearly a dereliction of duty.”

“They’re the Department of Justice and if you have a legally executed order and the attorney general says, ‘I’m not going to execute it,’ that truly — that clearly is a betrayal,” he said at the daily White House press briefing.

Mr. Trump fired Ms. Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, Monday night and installed Dana Boente, a federal prosecutor, as the new acting attorney general.

The White House statement announcing the move said that Ms. Yates “has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

It also said: “Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

Democrats rallied behind Ms. Yates, describing her as a hero who stood up to her boss’s unlawful executive order. Senate Democrats also seized on the episode as cause to further delay confirmation of Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions.

Mr. Spicer said that before Ms. Yates went rogue, the Justice Department Office of Legal Compliance had signed off on the measure, which temporarily halts visitors from seven Middle East and North African countries identified as terrorist hotbeds.

“It’s fully legal and it can be executed. So then for the attorney general to turn around and say, ‘I’m not going to uphold this lawful executive order’ is clearly a dereliction of duty,” said Mr. Spicer. “She should have been removed and she was.”

He said that Ms. Yates would have been justified in resigning if she couldn’t enforce the order.

“It is odd to me that we’re having a discussion about somebody who’s job it is to execute lawful orders who chose not to do it, and then we’re questioning whether or not we were right to remove her,” he said. “That’s the right thing to do.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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