President Donald Trump has fired acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates after she said the Justice Department would not defend Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Yates was fired just hours after she announced she would not be defending the order. Trump has appointed Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to the position, the White House said in a press release.
“It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme,” the White House statement said. “It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”
Boente, 62, is expected to remain in the position until Senator Jeff Sessions is confirmed as the new attorney general. His nomination hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. Democrats are expected to challenge Sessions’ nomination, but are unlikely to succeed, as he should have enough votes from Republicans to gain approval.
Boente, like Yates, is an Obama appointee. He is a career Justice Department employee who has worked under both Republican and Democratic presidents during his three decades as a prosecutor.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Boente Says He ‘Will Defend and Enforce the Laws of Our Country’
In a statement, new Acting Attorney General Dana Boente said he will defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration.
“I am honored to serve President Trump in this role until Senator Sessions is confirmed,” Boente said in the statement emailed by the White House. “I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected.”
He issued a statement saying he has issued a new guidance to the Justice Department’s employees:
On January 30, 2017, Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates issued a memorandum barring Department of Justice Attorney’s from presenting arguments in defense of the President’s January 27, 2017, Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” At approximately 9 p.m., I was asked by the President to serve in the capacity of Acting Attorney General. After having dedicated the last thirty-three years of my life to this Department. I am humbled and incredibly honored to serve as Acting Attorney General. Based upon the Office of Legal Counsel’s analysis, which found the Executive Order both lawful on its face and properly drafted, I hereby rescind former Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates January 30, 2017, guidance and direct the men and women of the Department of Justice to do our sworn duty and to defend the lawful orders of our President.
Boente told the Washington Post he had already been enforcing Trump’s order in Virginia federal court, defending the government against a civil rights challenge brought by travelers detained at Dulles International Airport.
“I was enforcing it this afternoon,” Boente told the Post. “Our career department employees were defending the action in court, and I expect that’s what they’ll do tomorrow, appropriately and properly.”
Earlier Monday, Boente’s predecessor, Sally Yates, said, “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,” in a letter to Justice Department lawyers, the New York Times reported. “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.”
A few hours later, Yates was out and Boente in.
Colleagues told the Post that Boente wouldn’t have taken the position if he didn’t believe the order is legally sound and constitutional.
“Dana was very circumspect about his politics,” former assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi, a Democrat, told the Post. “I never saw Dana in the 22 years I worked with him make what I considered to a political decision… He will try his best to enforce what he thinks is the law.
Rossi said, “If he thought that the executive order was illegal, I doubt very seriously he would have taken the position of acting attorney general.”
Defense attorney Jeffery Zweling agreed, telling the Post, “I don’t think he would do it if he felt that it was morally wrong to do it. I believe he looked inside himself and decided he could morally and legally defend the position. I don’t know how he votes, but he’s no liberal.”
Even if confirmed this week, it could be several days before Senator Jeff Sessions is able to take the oath of office and become Attorney General. According to the New York Times, Yates’ firing could cause issues in national security during that time.
It is not clear if Boente, who was not confirmed as Attorney General by Congress, may not be able to sign warrants in the secret FISA court.
Yates was “the only one authorized to sign foreign surveillance warrants, an essential function at the department,” according to the Times.
Trump has claimed Democrats are delaying his nominations, including that of Sessions, for political reasons.
2. Former Attorney General Lynch Called Him a ‘Consummate Utility Player’ After He Was Appointed as U.S. Attorney by Obama in 2015
Boente has worked for the Justice Department for 31 years, according to his biography on the Eastern District of Virginia’ website.
He was appointed to the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia by President Barack Obama in December 2015 and confirmed by the Senate that same month. He was sworn into office in February 2016.
Boente had been the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia for two years.
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch called him one of the Justice Department’s consummate utility players” when he took the oath in the Eastern District in 2016, according to the Washington Post.
“He is that reliable middle child, the one you could always count on to be there for you,” Lynch said.
Boente began his career as a law clerk to Chief U.S. District Judge J. Waldo Ackerman in the Central District of Illinois in 1982. Two years alter, he joined the Tax Division’s Criminal Section.
In January 2001, he became the Assistant U.S. Attorney in the fraud unit of the Eastern District of Virginia. In 2005, he returned to the tax division to serve as the principal deputy assistant attorney general.
He has also served as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana from 2012 to 2013.
“Dana Boente embodies the vision and leadership we need to empower our communities and strengthen our nation, and I am pleased to welcome him to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee,” Lynch said in a statement after he was sworn in. “Throughout his career – as a Trial Attorney in the Department of Justice’s Tax Division, as a federal prosecutor dedicated to rooting out fraud, and as a U.S. Attorney in Louisiana and Virginia – he has demonstrated his perseverance, his dedication and his wisdom.
“I look forward to receiving the benefit of his experience as we continue to work towards a safer, more just future for all Americans,” Lynch said.
3. Boente Has Prosecuted Several High-Profile Political Corruption Cases & Took Part in the Hillary Clinton Email Investigation
Boente has prosecuted several political corruption cases, including the cases against former Virginia Governor Robert “Bob” McDonnell, and McDonnell’s wife, Maureen. McDonnell is a Republican. He and his wife were both found guilty and sentenced to prison, but the convictions were overturned on appeal. The cases were dismissed in 2016.
While in Louisiana, he prosecuted corruption cases against former U.S. Rep. William J. Jefferson, a Democrat, and former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, also a Democrat, according to the Washington Post.
Nagin was convicted in 2014 and is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence. Jefferson was sentenced in 2012 to 13 years in prison.
Boente and the Eastern District of Virginia office oversaw the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016, alongside the FBI, according to the Washington Post.
He and other prosecutors took part in the interviews of the then-Democratic presidential nominee and her current and former staffers.
FBI Director James Comey eventually recommended no criminal charges be filed against Clinton.
4. He Said He Originally Planned to Briefly Work in the Justice Department Before Becoming Unhappy in a ‘Well Compensated’ Private Sector Job
Boente has lived in Virginia for 29 years, according to his biography on the Eastern District’s website.
He graduated from St. Louis University’s Law School. He also received his undergraduate and master’s degrees there.
Boente was born in Illinois, where he was raised along with his siblings by his mother after his father died when he was young, according to the Washington Post.
While being sworn in as U.S. Attorney in 2016, Boente said his mother, who was in attendance, “gave us opportunities that she never had.”
He said he planned to work in the Justice Department for a few years before returning to the Midwest for a job at a big firm that would leave him unhappy but “well compensated,” according to the Post.
At the ceremony he promised to “do my best” while in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
5. The Trump Administration Says Yates ‘Betrayed’ the Justice Department
In its press release announcing Yates had been fired and Boente’s appointment, the White House said Yates, “, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.”
The White House went on to say Yates is an Obama appointee and “is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”
Yates is the first Attorney General fired since President Richard Nixon dismissed his attorney general and deputy attorney general in 1973, the New York Times reports. Those firings, known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” came after they refused to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case, according to the Times.
Read more about Yates at the link below: