Haiti's President Jovenel Moise tried Tuesday to force out three judges who were proposed as potential interim national leader to replace him in the latest twist of the country's political crisis.
Moise says his term in office lasts until February 2022 -- but the opposition argues it should have ended last weekend, in a standoff over disputed elections.
Officials loyal to Moise claimed Sunday they had foiled an attempt to murder him and overthrow the government in a coup.
"Yvickel Dieujuste Dabrezil, Wendelle Coq Thelot and Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis, judges at the court of appeal, are retired," announced a special overnight edition of the Haitian official journal.
The decree appeared to be contrary to the constitution and Haitian law.
Jean-Louis said earlier this week he accepted the role of interim leader to oversee a transition of power from Moise's government.
The United States has until now backed Moise's stance and he appears to have retained control of the Caribbean island nation, which has a long history of instability and deep poverty worsened by natural disasters.
But in a statement on Twitter, the US embassy in Port-au-Prince said it was "deeply concerned about any actions that risk damaging Haiti's democratic institutions."
"The executive order is now being widely scrutinized to determine whether it conforms to Haiti's Constitution and laws," the statement added.
The dispute over when the president's term ends stems from Moise's original election. He was voted into office in a poll subsequently canceled after allegations of fraud, and then elected again a year later, in 2016.