Washington(CNN) President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night for "refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States," the White House said.
"(Yates) has betrayed the Department of Justice," the White House statement said.
Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was sworn in at 9 p.m. ET, per an administration official. A few hours later, Boente issued a statement rescinding Yates' order, instructing DOJ lawyers to "defend the lawful orders of our President."
Trump didn't call Yates to dismiss her, she was informed by hand-delivered letter, according to a different administration official.
The dramatic move came soon after CNN reported Yates told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees.
Read the full White House statement
The move set up a clash between the White House and Yates, who was appointed by President Barack Obama and was set to serve until Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's nominee for attorney general, if confirmed.
"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."
Trump's executive order, signed Friday, bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days, suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee program. Yates' decision came amid a flood of protests against the executive order nationwide and after four federal judges ruled against Trump's order, staying its impact on people who were detained at US airports over the weekend.
Trump tweeted his response shortly after the news broke, saying Democrats have stymied Sessions' confirmation, enabling Yates.
"The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.," he said.
"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," Yates wrote.
Yates' decision was always likely to be extremely short-lived as Sessions is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
White House policy director Stephen Miller, who helped craft the executive order, called Yates' decision "a further demonstration of how politicized our legal system has become."
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"It's sad that our politics have become so politicized, that you have people refusing to enforce our laws," Miller said Monday night on MSNBC.
Miller also defended the executive order's legality, insisting that the Immigration and Nationality Act gives the President "the ability to exclude any class of would-be visitors or immigrants to our country based on our national security interests."
But the decision didn't face the same criticism from Rep. Pete Sessions, a top House Republican, who said Yates' decision was likely similar "to an evaluation that we made."
"And that was it did not appear to be specific in nature," Sessions said referring to the executive order. "So it may be a matter of clarity it may be a matter of illegality to him, it may be a matter of several things. It did not look as complete and succinct as what I think I would've wanted."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, praised Yates for standing up "on principle."
"In all my years as a member of Congress, which now is 21, I've met so many very principled people who truly believe in the Constitution and doing what is right," Cummings said. "There comes a time when people, no matter who may be their boss, they stand upon their principles, so at the end of the day they can look them selves in the mirror and say 'I synchronized my conduct with my conscience.' And Yates is such a person."
Currently, there are cases filed in at least five states including Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and California that are challenging Trump's order.
The decision effectively grounds the executive order for the next few days until Sessions is sworn in.
Trump's nominees and their confirmation hearings
Vice President Mike Pence, right, administers the oath of office to Dan Coats, the new director of national intelligence, on Thursday, March 16. Coats was accompanied by his wife, Marsha. He was confirmed by the Senate the day before.
Coats speaks on Capitol Hill before his confirmation hearing in February. The former US senator from Indiana
was the US ambassador to Germany in the first term of George W. Bush's administration.
New Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks at his swearing-in ceremony in Washington on Thursday, March 2. The former Texas governor was confirmed
by a Senate vote of 62-37.
Perry is sworn in before his confirmation hearing in January. During his testimony,
Perry cast himself as an advocate for a range of energy sources, noting that he presided over the nation's leading energy-producing state. He also said he regrets once calling for the Energy Department's elimination.
Ben Carson is joined by his wife, Candy, and his granddaughter Tesora as he is sworn in as the secretary of housing and urban development on March 2. The renowned neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate was confirmed
by a vote of 58-41.
Carson greets Tesora prior to testifying before the Senate Committee of Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs in January. In his opening statement,
he noted that he was raised by a single mother who had a "third-grade education" and made the case that he understands the issues facing the millions of people who rely on HUD programs.
New Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signs an official document after he was confirmed by the Senate
on Wednesday, March 1. The former congressman from Montana was joined by his wife, Lolita, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, US Sen. Steve Daines and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, is sworn in before his confirmation hearing
in January. He pledged to review Obama administration actions that limit oil and gas drilling in Alaska, and he said he does not believe climate change is a hoax.
Pence swears in new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as Ross' wife, Hilary, stands by on Tuesday, February 28. The billionaire was confirmed by the Senate
by a vote of 72-27.
Ross, center, waits to be introduced by US Sen. Marco Rubio, right, at his confirmation hearing in January. At the hearing, Ross said he wants countries that resort to "malicious" trading tactics to be "severely" punished. He pointed the finger at China,
which he called "the most protectionist country of very large countries."
Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito swears in Scott Pruitt as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, February 17. Holding the Bible is Pruitt's wife, Marlyn, and they were joined by their son, Cade. Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, was confirmed by the Senate 52-46.
Pruitt testifies at his confirmation hearing
in January. Pruitt said he doesn't believe climate change is a hoax, but he didn't indicate he would take swift action to address environmental issues that may contribute to climate change. He said there is still debate over how to respond.
Pence shakes hands with Mick Mulvaney after swearing him in as the new director of the Office of Management and Budget on Thursday, February 16. Mulvaney's wife, Pam, looks on. Mulvaney had been a congressman since 2011.
Mulvaney testifies before the Senate Budget Committee in January. He didn't back off his views
that entitlement programs need revamping to survive -- and he didn't back away from some of his past statements on the matter. President Donald Trump, during his campaign, pledged not to touch Social Security or Medicare.
McMahon speaks during her confirmation hearing. She stepped down from her WWE duties in 2009 and ran for the Senate in 2010 and 2012.
Pence watches David Shulkin, the new secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, speak at his swearing-in ceremony on February 14. Shulkin was confirmed by a unanimous vote
in the Senate.
Shulkin speaks at his confirmation hearing. He was the VA's undersecretary for health,
a position in which he oversaw more than 1,700 health care sites across the United States.
Mnuchin arrives for his confirmation hearing in January. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, faced policy questions
about taxes, the debt ceiling and banking regulation.
Pence shakes hands with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price -- who was accompanied by his wife, Betty -- after a swearing-in ceremony on Friday, February 10. Price, a former congressman from Georgia, was confirmed 52-47
in a middle-of-the-night vote along party lines.
Price testifies at his confirmation hearing in January. Price confronted accusations
of investing in companies related to his legislative work in Congress -- and in some cases, repealing financial benefits from those investments. Price firmly denied any wrongdoing and insisted that he has taken steps to avoid any conflicts of interests.
Trump watches as Pence administers the oath of office to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the White House Oval Office on Thursday, February 9. Sessions, one of Trump's closest advisers and his earliest supporter in the Senate, was confirmed by a 52-47 vote
that was mostly along party lines. He was accompanied to the swearing-in by his wife, Mary.
In his wide-ranging confirmation hearing,
Sessions pledged to recuse himself from all investigations involving Hillary Clinton based on inflammatory comments he made during a "contentious" campaign season. He also defended his views of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion, saying he doesn't agree with it but would respect it.
Pence swears in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos next to her husband, Dick, on Tuesday, February 7. Pence cast a historic tie-breaking vote
to confirm DeVos after the Senate was divided 50-50.
DeVos, a top Republican donor and school-choice activist,
prepares to testify at her confirmation hearing in January. DeVos stood firm in her long-held beliefs
that parents -- not the government -- should be able to choose where to send children to school, pledging to push voucher programs if she was confirmed.
Trump watches as Pence swears in Rex Tillerson as secretary of state on Wednesday, February 1. Tillerson's wife, Renda St. Clair, holds the Bible. Tillerson, a former CEO of ExxonMobil, was confirmed in the Senate
by a vote of 56 to 43.
Elaine Chao, Trump's pick for transportation secretary, signs the affidavit of appointment during her swearing-in ceremony in Washington on Tuesday, January 31. Chao is joined, from left, by Pence; her father, James Chao; and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Chao testifies at her confirmation hearing
in January. Chao, who was approved by a 93-6 vote, was deputy secretary of transportation under George H.W. Bush and labor secretary under George W. Bush.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley takes the oath of office as she becomes the US Ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday, January 25. She is joined by US Sen. Marco Rubio and staffer Rebecca Schimsa as she is sworn in by the vice president.
During her confirmation hearing,
Haley rapped the UN for its treatment of Israel and indicated that she thinks the US should reconsider its contribution of 22% of the annual budget. "The UN and its specialized agencies have had numerous successes," Haley said. "However, any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers. ... I will take an outsider's look at the institution."
Mike Pompeo is joined by his wife, Susan, as he is sworn in as CIA director on Monday, January 23. Pompeo, who is vacating his seat in the US House, was confirmed by the Senate
in a 66-32 vote.
Pompeo is sworn in at his confirmation hearing.
Along with Russia, Pompeo said other global threats include Iran's growing influence in the Middle East, ISIS' grip over major urban areas, and the conflict in Syria.
Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He emerged from his confirmation hearing
with broad support after he took a strong posture against Russian President Vladimir Putin and answered tough questions on women and gays in combat.
Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly signs his confirmation letter on January 20. He is joined by his wife, Karen.
Kelly testifies at his hearing.
He was previously the head of US Southern Command, which is responsible for all military activities in South America and Central America.
"This will be moot. Then we will very much see the Trump Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions defend this executive order pretty vigorously. And then it will be up to the courts," said Steve Vladeck, a CNN contributor and law professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
In a written statement, Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch lauded Yates, calling her leadership "courageous."
"(Yates) displayed the fierce intellect, unshakeable integrity, and deep commitment to the rule of law," Lynch said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN's Erin Burnett Monday the Justice Department decision reflects poorly on the Trump administration.
"When you do something as important as this, it can't be a Twitter-type of activity," Schumer said. "This has to be thoroughly vetted ... and it's a very bad omen for this presidency."
Activists who have led the fight against Trump's immigration ban lauded Yates' action Monday night.
"We took to the court room, people took to the streets and now principled federal officials are drawing a hardline on this shameful and unconstitutional act by President Trump. This is what we rely on the Department of Justice for, to uphold the rule of law no matter how the political wind is blowing," said Karen Tumlin, the National Immigration Law Center's legal director.
Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued against the immigration ban in court in New York, praised Yates' decision and called on the next attorney general to "continue with that policy."
"This ban will do irreparable damage to real people and to American values," he said.
CNN's Kevin Liptak, Theodore Schleifer and Pamela Brown contributed to this report.