'I did my job,' Yates says of travel ban that got her fired

Key Points
  • Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said she did her job when she told the Department of Justice to not defend President Trump's immigration order
  • Sen. Ted Cruz and Yates debated the legality of the order as well as her decision
  • Yates said she learned about the order after media reports
Yates: Compromise was number one concern

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates defended her decision to not defend President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Yates said she determined that the order was unlawful.

"Look, I understand that people of good will, who are good folks can make different decisions about this. I understand that, but all I can say is that I did my job the best way I knew how," Yates said.

Yates was promptly fired after she refused to defend Trump's first immigration order, which would have restricted travel from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Sen. Ted Cruz pressed Yates, saying that the U.S. Code grants the president broad authorization to impose entry restrictions.

Yates agreed that the president has that authority, but pushed back, citing another legal provision that prevents visa discrimination based on race or place of birth. Yates said, however, that her main concern was "whether or not the executive order here violated the Constitution, specifically the establishment clause and equal protection and due process."

Cruz argued that Yates made her decision after the office of legal counsel approved the order's legality. The Republican senator pushed Yates, asking if she knew of any precedent for her decision to contradict a determination made by the office.

"I'm not, but I'm also not aware of a situation where the office of legal counsel was advised not to tell the attorney general about it until after it was over," she said.

The Department of Justice was not only left out of the development of the order, but Yates also said she learned about the directive from media reports.

The former acting attorney general added that the office of legal counsel only looks at the face of a document, and not the intent.

"It was appropriate for us to look at the intent behind the president's actions and the intent is laid out in his statements," Yates said.

Earlier Monday, Trump's campaign website removed a 2015 statement calling for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."