Acting attorney general says Justice Dept. lawyers won’t back travel ban

Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday directed lawyers at the Department of Justice to refrain from even trying to defend President Donald Trump's controversial ban on U.S. travel for citizens of seven nations in the Middle East and Africa. Yates, a member of former President Barack Obama's government, is filling in the office as Trump nominee Jeff Sessions seeks confirmation. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Jan. 30 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Justice will not even try to defend legal challenges to President Donald Trump‘s controversial travel ban — at least not right now.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates said government lawyers won’t argue the issue because it’s uncertain whether it is legal.

“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 to Justice Department lawyers. “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.”

Trump ordered the travel ban on Friday in an executive action as a matter of guarding national security, his administration said. The temporary prohibition affects citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.

Thousands of protesters have demonstrated nationwide against the presidential order since Saturday, despite Trump’s insistence that the measure is not anti-Muslim, but rather anti-terrorism.

Yates, a holdover from former President Barack Obama‘s government, is serving as attorney general while Trump’s nominee, Jeff Sessions, goes through the confirmation process. If he is confirmed, it’s expected that he will comply with the president’s order.

Trump’s ban, however, already faces other legal challenges — including a federal judge’s injunction and potential lawsuits from more than a dozen states. Monday, Washington state became the first to sue Trump over the ban.


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