The acting chief of the Justice Department has instructed lawyers there not to defend President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration in the name of national security.
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was the No. 2 official at the department before Trump’s swearing-in and has been running the department since that time, sent a memo saying she doubts the wisdom and the legality of the directive.
“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, 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,” Yates wrote in a memo released by the department. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilitie,s nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.”
The memo clearly puts Yates at risk of being fired by Trump, who has that authority. However, that could disrupt other department operations, including surveillance aimed at suspected terrorists.
Yates’ order leaves the government with no authorized courtroom representation in several lawsuits and dozens of other court actions challenging Trump’s order and the way it was carried out by immigration authorities.