UPDATE 8:25am Democrats are walking out on votes for US President Donald Trump’s administration nominees, delaying the vital appointments.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have boycotted votes on Mr Trump’s cabinet nominees because they sought more information on the billionaire’s choices.
A vital vote on Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions was also postponed after votes on health and human services secretary nominee Tom Price and treasury secretary nominee Stephen Mnuchin were halted.
For both Mr Price and Mr Mnuchin, the Democrats said they need more financial information on the pair’s business dealings.
Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow accused Mr Mnuchin and Mr Price of dishonesty in their disclosures upon nomination.
“The truth matters,” she said. “That’s not what has been happening here.”
Republicans reacted to the delays with scorn.
“I think this is a completely unprecedented level of obstruction,” Senator Patrick J. Toomey said.
Democrats also expressed their dismay at Attorney General nominee Mr Sessions, who was supposed to be approved for the role imminently.
“How could we possibly conclude that this nominee will be independent?” Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
Earlier, the confirmation of Mr Trump’s chosen successor to sacked Attorney-General Sally Yates was being viewed as a possible “referendum” on the US President’s immigration executive order.
In what is an escalating crisis for Mr Trump’s 10-day-old administration, the President removed Ms Yates from her role on Tuesday after she ordered her department to not defend his immigration ban.
Mr Trump appointed Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve in the role until Mr Trump’s chosen successor – Mr Sessions – is confirmed.
Senators from both parties have expressed misgivings over Mr Trump’s executive order and the Democrats are expected to drag out the confirmation of Mr Sessions as long as possible.
The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2017
When will the Democrats give us our Attorney General and rest of Cabinet! They should be ashamed of themselves! No wonder D.C. doesn't work!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2017
Compounding the issue are reports that Ms Yates was the only Senate-confirmed official at the Justice Department who was senior enough to sign off on his requests for secret surveillance warrants.
The White House released a statement earlier on Tuesday declaring Mr Trump had “relieved” Ms Yates of her duties, saying she had “betrayed” the Department of Justice by “refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect US citizens”.
“Ms Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the statement said.
The New York Times had previously reported that while Ms Yates remained in the job US government lawyers would not defend Mr Trump’s executive order.
“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,” Ms Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers obtained by The New York Times.
Mr Trump has caused chaos and outrage around the world after he signed an executive order to ban refugees and others from seven largely Muslim countries from entering the US.
Despite mass protests across the country, nearly half of all American adults surveyed agree with President Trump’s controversial travel ban, a new poll has found.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll found 49 percent of American adults polled said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed with the tough new immigration laws.
Forty-one percent of respondents said they “strongly” or “somewhat” disagreed while another 10 percent said they don’t know.
The vote was mostly split along party lines, with 51 per cent of Republicans “strongly” agreeing, while 53 of Democrats “strongly” disagreed.
Also on Tuesday, Trump appointed Thomas Homan as acting director for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Homan has served as executive associate director of ICE enforcement and removal operations since 2013, the DHS statement said.
In that role, Homan led the agency’s efforts “to identify, arrest, detain, and remove illegal aliens, including those who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety,” the statement noted.
The statement made no mention of Daniel Ragsdale, who is currently listed as acting director on the ICE website. A DHS spokeswoman, however, said Ragsdale would continue to serve as ICE deputy director, according to The Washington Post.
A host of security chiefs including Homeland Security head John Kelly have fronted now reporters to defend the ban – read about that here.
White House divide deepens
American diplomats are voicing their opposition to President Trump’s executive order, with a large group of politicians circulating a memo of their concern.
Meanwhile, a number of top national security officials including Defence Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, have said they were not aware of the details surrounding Mr Trump’s order until he signed it.
Mr Mattis, who stood next to Mr Trump during the signing ceremony, is said to be particularly incensed.
He is believed to have been aware of the general concept of the order, but not the details.
Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, according to US officials.
Confusingly, Mr Kelly then fronted a Washington press conference saying it wasn’t a surprise, and that officials were aware of Mr Trump’s plans since the day he announced he was standing for President.
And in a combative response, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer challenged those opposing the directive to resign.
“They should either get with the program or they can go,” Mr Spicer said.
Meanwhile European Council President Donald Tusk sees Mr Trump as a threat to world security.
He said Mr Trump’s rise in Washington was part of an external threat to the EU which also included an “assertive” China, and “aggressive” Russia and radical Islam.
He also said in the letter to the EU leaders that Mr Trump’s administration placed the EU in a “difficult situation” as it appeared to “put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy”.
Trump rolls out the big guns
Trump has rolled out a slew of top officials in a Washington press conference defending his immigration ban.
They include the Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, and top Customs and Border Protection officials.
And Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who has been reluctant to jump on the Trump train, has also defended the move – arguing that while the rollout was bumpy, the policy is consistent with Republican principals.
“The president has a responsibility to the security of this country,” Ryan told reporters.
Even though GOP congressional leadership was frozen out of the drafting of the order, Ryan told rank-and-file Republicans in a closed-door meeting before speaking to reporters that he backed the decision to stop the US refugee program and ban all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.
Figures don’t match
Numbers of people affected by the ban given by the Department of Homeland Security today differ widely from official figures cited by the White House.
Earlier the official stance was that 109 people were affected by the ban, which was enacted immediately it was announced.
However Kevin McAleenan, the acting commissioner of US Customs & Border Control, said 721 travellers from the seven countries in the ban were denied over the weekend.
The difference was explained by officials saying authorities worked on “yesterday” figures, and the 109 number related to the first hours of the ban only.
Mr McAleenan said hundreds of refugees will arrive in the US this week and will be processed for waivers.
Trump to keep Obama LGBT measure
Mr Trump will keep workplace discrimination protections for gay and transgender Americans put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
The White House announced overnight that the President would not rescind Mr Obama’s 2014 executive order that made it illegal to discriminate against LGBT employees.
Mr Trump has made clear his desire to roll back many Obama-era initiatives, but the White House said the LGBT workplace protections would be kept at “the direction” of Mr Trump.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the White House statement said.