President Donald Trump's administration fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she instructed Justice Department attorneys not to defend Trump's executive order banning refugees and some immigrants, arguing that it was neither constitutional nor morally correct.
In a Jan. 30 tweet, White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced the removal of Yates, a Democratic appointee standing in while Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama awaits Senate confirmation to take her place, reports The Associated Press.
"[Trump] has named Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of VA as Acting Attorney General," Spicer tweeted. "Sally Yates has been relieved."
Boente has worked in the Department of Justice for more than 30 years, notes the Los Angeles Times. Former President Barack Obama appointed him as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2015.
"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 letter clarifying her stance on the issue, according to the AP. "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."
Yates was not the only person to question the order, which indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee program and temporarily prevents anyone from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. A group of American diplomats sent out a memo opposing the action.
Spicer advised them to resign.
"They should either get with the program or they can go," he said.
Though Yates was expected to remain in her position for only a short period of time until the Senate confirmed her successor, her departure is now expected to cause serious problems in the Justice Department, since she was the only member authorized to sign foreign espionage wiretapping warrants, notes the Los Angeles Times.