Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates gave a fierce speech to the graduating class at Harvard Law School, explaining why she refused to defend President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Trump had fired Yates 10 days into his administration after she took an extraordinarily rare step of defying the White House and refused to defend new travel restrictions targeting seven Muslim-majority nations. 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.
The Democratic hero told law graduates that the decision to go against the ban wasn’t easy. She explained that it was not just about the order’s lawfulness, but also of whether it was a “wise or just” policy.
“The defining moments in our lives often don’t come with advance warning,” she said. “They can arise in scenarios we would have never expected, and don’t come with the luxury of a lot of time for you to go inside yourself for some serious introspection.”
She explained that she was on her way to the airport when she found out about the Muslim ban through media reports, adding she knew that the Justice Department would be told to defend the President’s orders. Yates explained that her decision of not defending the ban was not just about the order’s lawfulness, but also of whether it was a “wise or just” policy.
“I directed the Department of Justice not to defend the ban,” she said.
Yates advised the law graduates to avoid taking the safe route, “The safest course is not always the best course. Be bold.”
In what appears to be a jab at the president, she mentioned, “Doing your job means you are not simply a reflection of someone else’s talents or opinions, you’re the person to whom a leader turns when he or she needs to hear the truth.”