Justice Department will not defend executive order on travel restrictions

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Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice on June 28, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON– The acting Attorney General Sally Yates has told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, according to sources familiar with the order.

Yates, an Obama appointee who is serving until Trump attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions is confirmed, does not believe the substance of the order is lawful, according to the sources.

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts,” she said in a letter. “In addition, 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,” she wrote.

Her order is enforced only until she leaves office.

Currently, there are cases filed in at least five states including Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and California that are challenging Trump’s order.

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