Trump fires a consummate public servant for defying his unconstitutional and unlawful executive order

The Attorney General is supposed to maintain arms-length independence from the political influence of the White House in “the pursuit of justice.”  The last time a president fired someone in the attorney general’s office, it was Richard Nixon executing the infamous Saturday Night Massacre at the height of the Watergate scandal.

Last night, Donald Trump fired acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates for defying him by announcing that Justice Department lawyers would not defend  his executive order for a Muslim travel ban and a religious test for entry into the United States against legal challenges. Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Defied Him.

Nancy LeTourneau at the Political Animal blog tells us What You Should Know About the Public Servant Trump Just Fired, Sally Yates:

Sally Yates, who served as Deputy Attorney General since 2015, was asked by the Trump administration to be the Acting Attorney General until their nominee—Jeff Sessions—was confirmed. Yesterday she issued a memo to the top lawyers in the Justice Department directing them to not defend Trump’s executive order on immigrants and refugees as long as she was in that position. You can read her memo here.

By the end of the day, Trump fired Yates for taking that action, accusing her of “betraying the Justice Department” and suggesting that she is “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.” While some have compared this to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” it might not rise to that level—but it certainly sends a chilling message to anyone in the federal bureaucracy who might contemplate resisting the administration.

Yates is being hailed as a hero in many circles for standing up against the Trump administration’s odious executive order. So it might be informative to take a look at some important points throughout her career in public service.

Most notably, after being in private practice, Yates was hired in 1989 by none other than former Congressman Bob Barr (one of the Republican leaders of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton) to be the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. During her term there, she was the lead prosecutor in the case of the Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.

In 2010, President Obama nominated Yates to be U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia and then in 2015 she was confirmed by the Senate as Deputy AG with a vote of 84-12. During her tenure in that position, Yates took the lead on several important initiatives.

  • She was the administration’s lead negotiator with Congress on attempts to pass criminal justice reform.
  • She announced the phase-out of the federal government’s use of private prisons.
  • She advocated for re-entry services for federal prisoners in order to reduce recidivism.
  • She was tapped by President Obama to get rid of the problems causing a backlog in his Clemency Initiative.

In other words, whether serving under Republican or Democratic administrations, Sally Yates has been the consummate public servant with a demonstrated commitment to justice and public safety for all Americans.

But perhaps the most poignant moment of her career—given what transpired yesterday—was her questioning for Senate confirmation of her nomination to be Deputy Attorney General. As Steve Benen reports, a particular line of inquiry came from the man who has been nominated by Trump to serve as Attorney General—Senator Jeff Sessions.

SESSIONS: Well. you have to watch out, because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say ‘no’ about. Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? [„,] If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?

YATES: Senator, I believe the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give their independent legal advice to the president.

Yates declared her “obligation to follow the law and the Constitution” under questioning by the man that is being proclaimed the “intellectual godfather” of the kind of executive order she refused to defend. Such is the sorry state of affairs in the era of Donald Trump.

Yates was fired for giving her independent legal advice free from the political influence of the White House, and refusing to comply with an unconstitutional and unlawful executive order, as I previously explained in this post. America’s descent into the darkness of ‘Trumpism,’ the new American fascism. She met her ethical obligations as an attorney.

5 responses to “Trump fires a consummate public servant for defying his unconstitutional and unlawful executive order

  1. Sally Yates is a profile in partisanship, denial and insubordination. The order was neither illegal nor unconstitutional and her decision not to enforce was based on nothing more than her so-called moral compass.

    You attempt to label The Executive order a “Muslim travel ban and a religious test” is laughable. Perhaps you have not read the order, or have and are trying to con the other eleven readers of your blog into believing the myth. Either way, in case you have not read it, and for those others bold enough to think for themselves, here is the actual text. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states

    The Democratic party is floundering – take a deep breath, make some hard decisions, and start rebuilding. 2033 will be here before you know it.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      You are the least qualified among our trolls to make a determination of what is legal or constitutional. Your long record of parroting GOP talking points from right-wing hate talk radio and FAUX News demonstrates that you have no independent thoughts of your own.

      • Hahahahahah! You bring up the subject of independent thoughts!!

        God I love reading this site!!

        By the way did you read the order??

  2. she won’t be the last one to be fired. what is our side doing? complaining is not doing anything and neither is marching. 11 states had popular vote bill. have anymore states joined since the election? democrats are doing what?

    • What exactly are YOU doing besides perpetually whining in trolling this blog? You always want someone else to do what you are unwilling to do yourself.