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Trump fires acting attorney general, dismisses officials' memo against ban

Sally Yates ordered DoJ not to enforce Trump's immigration ban, while State 'dissent channel' said ban would inflame anti-American sentiment
Chaos broke out as border, customs, and immigration officials struggled to act on the directive amid loud protests at major US airports (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump late on Monday fired his acting attorney general because she ordered Justice Department lawyers not to enforce his immigration ban, after earlier dismissing a memo of dissent from State Department officials.

Shortly after she was fired, the White House said Sally Yates "has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States" and portrayed her actions as political.

"Ms Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration," the White House said in a statement.

Trump named Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to replace Yates, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a tweet.

With Trump's White House facing multiple lawsuits and worldwide opprobrium over the immigrant ban, Yates had whipped the rug from under her boss in a defiant and damaging parting shot. Yates, an Obama administration holdover, said she was not convinced Trump's executive order barring travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations was lawful.

Dissent memo dismissed

Also, State Department officials earlier on Monday circulated a draft memo criticising Trump's executive order on immigration, prompting a retort from the White House that they should "get with the program or they can go".

The order, which Trump issued on Friday, banned immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and temporarily halted the entry of refugees. Chaos broke out as border, customs, and immigration officials struggled to act on the directive, amid loud protests at major US airports.

"These career bureaucrats have a problem with it? I think that they should either get with the program or they can go" - White House spokesman Sean Spicer

The draft memo in the "dissent channel," through which dissenting views are sent to the secretary of state and other top department officials, argued that the policy would be counterproductive and damage America's image abroad.

"The end result of this ban will not be a drop in terror attacks in the United States; rather it will be a drop in international good will towards Americans and a threat towards our economy," according to the draft memo, which was seen by Reuters.

The document argued that the policy would sour relations with the affected countries, inflame anti-American sentiment, and hurt those who seek to visit the United States for humanitarian reasons, such as medical care.

"Moreover, such a policy runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play, and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants," it added.

'Get on with it or go'

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he was aware of the memo and thought media reporting on the executive order had been "blown way out of proportion and exaggerated".

"These career bureaucrats have a problem with it? I think that they should either get with the program or they can go," he told reporters at his daily briefing.

Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner, however, called the dissent channel an "important" vehicle to convey alternative views that Acting Secretary of State Thomas Shannon and the department as a whole "value and respect".

In addition, former Iraqi government officials have also condemned Trump’s immigration order. The ban on Iraqis entering the United States is a "betrayal" and sign of mistrust, said Lukman Faily, Baghdad's former ambassador to Washington who is himself affected by the restrictions.

Iraq is a partner with the United States, is fighting against militants, and is not one of the countries in the region that "exports terrorists" elsewhere, Faily told AFP.

"To be treated like this... to say it's a betrayal (is) an understatement," he said.

"I confirmed with the US embassy here in Baghdad that I am banned as well," Faily said, adding that visas were not being issued to Iraqis who are not government officials.