Washington: Amid protests against his order to temporarily ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries coming to the US, President Donald Trump fired a defiant Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend the order against court challenges.
Announcing the dismissal of the nation's top law officer on Monday night, the White House accused her of betrayal "by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the US."
Yates said earlier that she was not convinced of the legality of Trump's executive order temporarily refusing entry for people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Refusing to defend the challenges to the orders in court, she said: "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."
Trump appointed Dana Boente, the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia, to take over Yates' position.
The first major legal challenge to Trump's order was filed by Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General of Washington, in a federal court there. The constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and equal rights were violated by the orders, he asserted.
The seven countries had already been identified as high-risk for terrorism by former President Barack Obama's administration. Trump's executive order bans their citizens from entering the US for 90 days till an extreme vetting process is put in place for them.
Although there have been widespread protests against the ban -- which critics say is anti-Muslim because the seven nations are Muslim majority -- a Rasmussen opinion poll showed that 56 per cent of likely voters supported the ban and only 33 per cent were against it.
Yates was appointed as the Deputy Attorney General by former President Barack Obama.
When Trump took over, Attorney General Loretta Lynch resigned and Yates was designated to be the acting appointee till Trump's nominee, Jeff Sessions, got Senate approval.
Democrats who oppose his nomination because of his conservative positions will now redouble their campaign against him, leading more delays in the confirmation process.