Repeated comments from President Trump and his advisers about barring Muslims from entering the U.S. were at the heart of former Acting Attorney Genera Sally Yates’ decision to refuse to defend the president’s executive order on immigration, senior officials told the New York Times. Yates has become a hero to many on the left and the face of a simmering resistance inside the government to Trump’s administration.
Yates was caught by surprise Friday night by Trump’s executive order temporarily halting all refugees from entering the U.S. and indefinitely blocking immigration or visits from seven Muslim countries. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed the order and signed off on its legality. Yates and her aides believed that the department had to consider the intent of the order, which she said appeared designed to single out people based on religion. Trump had campaigned on a promise to single out Muslims for immigration restrictions. One of his advisers, Rudolph Giuliani, said Trump wanted a Muslim ban but needed “the right way to do it legally.” Trump said in a later interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christian refugees would be given priority for entry visas.