Monday night, three hours after acting Attorney General Sally Yates issued a letter instructing US Attorneys not to defend Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, Trump fired her. The last time that happened was in 1973, when Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at the height of the Watergate scandal. It precipitated the resignation of Attorney General Elliot Richardson. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer read a statement from Trump criticizing Ms Yates for doing her job.
Yates, who was specifically chosen by the Trump White House to serve as acting A.G., said she simply wasn’t convinced the president’s executive order was legally permissible. In theory, West Wing officials could’ve tried to persuade her with compelling arguments, but instead Trump fired her, issuing a poorly written statement describing Yates as “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration” and someone who “betrayed the Department of Justice.”
The firing has sparked scathing of criticism:
Patrick Leahy, Democrat and ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee, said: “Federal courts have already found President Trump’s immigration order is very likely unconstitutional, and tonight acting attorney general Yates concluded that it was not legally defensible.
“She was fired for recognising that her oath is to the Constitution and not to President Trump. His accusation that she has ‘betrayed the Department of Justice’ is wrong and it is dangerous.
“President Trump has now put his cabinet on notice: if you adhere to your oath of office to defend the Constitution, you risk your job. Equally troubling is that his nominee for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, has shown no indication that he has the independence to put the Constitution before the president. The Senate at its best can be the conscience of the nation. Senators must oppose Senator Sessions.”
Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe spoke with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow about how this threatens the independence of the DOJ.
Also, Richard Ben-Veniste, former US Attorney and Watergate Special Prosecutor (1973 – 1975), joined an MSNBC panel discussion on the ramifications of the firing.
Amazingly, it was the current nominee for Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (R-AL) who reminded Ms. Yates, during her confirmation hearing, that there would come a time that she would have to say no to the president.
Clearly, Trump and his crew do not understand the apolitical nature of the Justice Department. Trump is acting like he is still the CEO of his company not the president of the United States. The resistance to his illegal orders must and will continue. The survival of this country depends on it.