Trump’s talk about Muslims led acting attorney general to follow the law and defy the president


The New York Times reports: As Republicans seethed over President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration in early 2015, Senator Jeff Sessions sharply questioned Sally Q. Yates about whether she had the independent streak needed to be the Justice Department’s second in command.

Mr. Sessions, Republican of Alabama, wanted to know whether Ms. Yates, a federal prosecutor from Georgia who made her career charging domestic terrorists and white-collar criminals, would be willing to stand up to the president.

“If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say ‘No?’ ” Mr. Sessions asked during a confirmation hearing for Ms. Yates.

“I believe the attorney general or deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and Constitution and give their independent legal advice to the president,” Ms. Yates replied.

As acting attorney general on Monday, Ms. Yates faced what she believed to be the realization of that hypothetical.

President Trump’s own words convinced her that his executive order on immigration was intended to single out Muslims, senior officials said. Hours after she refused to defend that order, Mr. Trump fired her.

Ms. Yates, 56, a relative newcomer to Washington, has become a hero to many on the left and the face of a simmering resistance inside the government to Mr. Trump’s administration.

After receiving a hand-delivered dismissal letter, she packed up her office around midnight and left the department, a politically divisive moment in a career that until now had earned her bipartisan praise.

“She will be a hero of the American people, a hero of what’s right,” Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, said in 2015 at her confirmation hearing. “She’ll call them like she sees them, and she will be fair, and she will be just.” [Continue reading…]

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