Update: Donald Trump moved quickly to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates. In her stead, he appointed Dana Boente. Boente will take over duties until Jeff Sessions or someone else is confirmed as Attorney General. The move is an end-run around the vetting and confirmation process legally required for cabinet appointees. Trump's White House continues to demonstrate that they will push their agenda in contravention to the Constitution if they find that to be necessary.
Original story follows. Though Barack Obama has left office, his influence is still being felt in Washington, D.C. That's because acting Attorney General Sally Yates has ordered Department of Justice lawyers not to defend Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the New York Times reports. “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 now-public letter to Justice Department lawyers. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.” The Times characterizes her opposition as largely symbolic, but Trump's nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is facing a heated confirmation battle as Democrats work to link him to the immigration order. Stephen Miller, the White House Senior Advisor who reportedly co-authored the controversial order with Stephen Bannon, was Sessions' longtime communications advisor while Sessions served as a Senator from Alabama. Sessions and, by extension, Miller have long been advocates of xenophobic refugee policy. Sessions' confirmation hearing will be held Tuesday, January 31. Though the confirmation requires only a simple majority, a holdover from Harry Reid's Democratic supermajority early in Obama's presidency, Republican Senators McCain and Graham have both been vocal critics of the executive order. For now, that means we'll see a continuing flood of stays against the order. Some officials have refused to honor those stays, setting a troubling precedent reminiscent of President Andrew Jackson, who was famously racist. Read Yates' full letter here.