President Donald Trump fired his acting attorney general, Sally Yates—a Barack Obama appointee—on Monday night after Yates, in an extraordinary act of public defiance, directed Justice Department lawyers not to mount a legal defense of Trump's executive order banning refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.
Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer announced the news on Twitter.
In a separate statement, statement, the White House said that Yates had "betrayed" the DOJ, and called her "weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration."
Yates' firing means that the DOJ can resume its defense of the ban in court. Lawsuits against the order have been filed in multiple states.
Yates announced her decision in a letter to the DOJ. In the letter, she flatly declared that she was not "convinced that the executive order is lawful."
She wrote, in part:
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. 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.
For as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.
Yates was in her post because Jeff Sessions, Trump's attorney general nominee, has not been confirmed by the Senate yet. The Senate Judiciary Committee is formally considering his nomination on Tuesday.