President Donald Trump just fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, after she refused to support his immigration ban on people coming from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In defiance of the president’s directive, Yates ordered the Department of Justice lawyers not to enforce the new travel restrictions, which include a 120-day blanket ban on all refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day ban on people coming from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Yates said she couldn’t defend the ban because it was not "consistent with this institution's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right."
The decision almost immediately cost Yates her job.
But no one paying attention should be surprised by Yates' stand.
Newly unearthed footage of Yates’ confirmation hearing as deputy attorney general, which took place on March 24, 2015, features a question in which she was asked if she would defy the president over something “improper.”
But it’s not just the question that’s painfully relevant here.
The senator who directed that question at Yates was none other than Jeff Sessions, Trump’s highly controversial nominee for attorney general.
"You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say no about," Sessions said to Yates. "Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president, if he asks for something that's improper? A lot of people have defended the [former Attorney General Loretta] Lynch nomination, for example, by saying, 'Well, [former President Barack Obama] appoints somebody who's going to execute his views. What's wrong with that?' But if the views a president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?"
Unlike Sessions, who failed to prove to the Senate and American citizens that he is the right choice to head the Department of Justice during his confirmation hearing, Yates gave a reply that was not only powerful but something she followed through.
“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 responded.
One can’t help but wonder what Sessions, a man so bigoted that he wasn't approved for a federal judgeship, would have said in response to the same question during his hearing.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jim Bourg