Disgraceful: Trump Sacks Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates, Who Refused to Support His Vile Immigration Ban

31.1.17

Donald Trump and Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General who he has sacked after she refused to cooperate with his disgraceful immigration ban.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my work over the first two months of the Trump administration.

 

Heroes abound in opposition to Donald Trump’s America — the lawyers filing habeas corpus petitions in airports, the citizens filling the streets with their voices and their indignation in huge numbers of cities across the land, and a handful of individuals whose objections have directly challenged the worst of his policies in his first turbulent ten days in office.

One is Judge Ann Donnelly, the federal court judge in Brooklyn who, on Saturday morning, issued a stay on the forced deportation of those on flights or in US airports who had been targeted by Trump’s outrageous immigration ban, barring entry to the US for anyone from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for three months, and banning all Syrian refugees permanently (in defiance of the US’s refugee treaty obligations), and also, with utter contempt for their rights, banning re-entry to any permanent US resident from any of these countries who happened to have been abroad when the ban came into effect, as well as anyone with dual nationality (where one nationality includes any of the proscribed countries), including US citizens.

The ban has drawn widespread criticism and has sparked huge protests, and it is clear that it is absolutely unacceptable, as its claimed basis — to protect the US from terrorists — has no basis in reality, as just two US citizens a year from these seven countries are killed by immigrants who could be described as terrorists, compared to 21 a year killed by toddlers with guns, and 11,737 a year shot and killed by other Americans.

It is, therefore, a purely racist move by the president, who has repeatedly shown that he is a racist, and whose two chief advisors, the white supremacist Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, are also profoundly racist and are intent on reshaping America according to their dangerous prejudices and hostility towards anyone who is not white, Christian or Jewish.

The second hero of the growing official, establishment resistance to Trump is Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who has been fired by Trump “after she told justice department lawyers not to defend his executive order banning entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries,” as the Guardian described it.

Yates, appointed by Barack Obama, who was in charge of the Justice Department because Congress has not yet confirmed Trump’s nominee, the bigoted Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, “had control over the justice department’s immigration litigation office, which has handled the federal complaints filed against Trump’s order since his bombshell policy was announced on Friday,” as the Guardian put it.

In a powerful and accurate letter to Justice Department lawyers, she wrote, “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

A White House statement that looks like it was written by Trump himself claimed that Sally Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” and described Ms. Yates as “an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

The statement added, “It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.” The statement also made a point of claiming that Sessions’ nomination was “being wrongly held up by Democrat senators for strictly political reasons.”

Yates has already been replaced by the pliant Dana Boente, US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, who has revoked her predecessor’s guidance to DoJ lawyers, but all Trump’s immature bombast, and that of his dwindling band of supporters, cannot disguise the fact that Yates will be seen by many more people as a hero.

In response to the sacking, Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, said, “Donald Trump can try to silence heroic patriots like Sally Yates who dare to speak truth to power about his illegal anti-Muslim ban that emboldens terrorists around the globe. But he cannot silence the growing voices of an American people now wide awake to his tyrannical presidency.”

Some commentators, as the Guardian described it, “compared the firing to the 1973 “Saturday night massacre” when Richard Nixon sacked the special Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox, prompting the resignation of Elliot Richardson as attorney general.”

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, “I think it’s historic. It certainly reminded me immediately of the Saturday night massacre. There are many differences but one is how quickly this has happened in the Trump presidency. It’s as if history is being collapsed into a black hole and everything is happening faster than the speed of light.”

He added that “the executive order really challenges who we are as Americans and violates important parts of the constitution” and noted there had been protests from the ground up. I think it’s an important turning point in our history and tonight is part of that extraordinary moment we are living through.”

The most powerful criticism came from the Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who 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 recognizing 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.”

“Remarkably,” as the Guardian described it, during her Senate confirmation hearings as Deputy Attorney General under Obama, Sally Yates was asked “what she would say to a president who wanted to do something unlawful” by none other than Jeff Sessions, who “prefaced his question” by telling Yates, “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 is improper? … If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”

Yates told Sessions definitively, “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.”

She has now been sacked for doing just that, and there is no word from Jeff Sessions about how she was just doing what she was supposed to do — upholding the Constitution against a rogue president.

In the growing resistance to Donald Trump, Sally Yates is a hero.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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12 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking at Donald Trump’s sacking of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who dared to criticize his unacceptable immigration ban. In a powerful and accurate letter to Justice Department lawyers, she wrote, “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.” Well done, Sally Yates, another hero of the resistance to the racist authoritarianism of Trump and his chief advisors, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. As Sen. Patrick Leahy said, “She was fired for recognizing that her oath is to the Constitution and not to President Trump.”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Amy Phillips wrote:

    Thanks for this Andy, I’ll repost it on my wall. I went to bed early and am now just catching up with this news. EVERY MORNING I WAKE UP TO A NIGHTMARE!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    And I not only sympathetically am part of what the US is feeling, Amy, I also have to deal with the Brexit nightmare in my own country! A double whammy of insomnia-inducing idiocy!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Twitter link here, if anyone is interested in following me there: https://twitter.com/GuantanamoAndy/status/826402142411960320

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Yamil Arrifai wrote:

    Now he really showed his true face: he is indeed a dictator, a populist. He just seek constantly revenge towards the ones who oppose him. He rules only by twitter, his “propaganda agent”.
    I’m sick of it reading his hateful posts! Instead of being more diplomatic he behaves like a madman

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    And I hope that will lead to his downfall, Yamil. This type of behavior appeals to his base, but not, I hope, to anyone else in numbers sufficient to ensure his survival. He is openly mocking US values, and the system of checks and balances that is essential to keep a check on executive overreach, and he’s doing so in a more alarming manner even than Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington and co, who believe in the unitary executive theory, which says the president can do what he wants in times of emergency, and cannot be held accountable for it. What I hope undermines Trump is that there is no national emergency like 9/11. This is simply racism, blunt and violent, attempting to create an emergency that justifies the suspension of all rights when there isn’t actually an emergency. He and his advisors deserve to fall.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Ghias Aljundi wrote:

    Sisi of America

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes exactly, Ghias. The fascist fantasies of Trump, Bannon and co are not exactly disguised. It’s one of the things that I hope will prompt their downfall. Their contempt for the machinery of the government and the Constitution is really quite breathtaking.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Yamil Arrifai wrote:

    Exactly. He only wants his “servants” in office! He is undermining the democracy the US always had! You are right, by firing this woman he is against the constitution and democracy itself. If he continue like this I hope he wont last too long in office

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    We can only hope, Yamil – while also keeping out on the streets, and doing all we can to constantly publicize his abuses of power. Stamina is required!

  11. the talking dog says...

    BTW, he was entirely within his rights in removing Ms. Yates, whose actions, while courageous, were also insubordinate. Being who he is, of course, he couldn’t leave it there, and, libelously perhaps, suggested that Ms. Yates “has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.” I give the new Administration credit for constructing a statement containing no less than three major “alternative facts,” as Ms. Yates upheld the integrity of her department by refusing to enforce a patently unlawful order issued to undermine the security of the United States in a deliberate act of racist mean-spiritedness and malfeasance. I hear that Ms. Yates may well run for governor of Georgia… best of luck to her!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, and it really does look like he asked especially to write the statement himself, doesn’t it, TD?
    Three “alternative facts” – a high bar for future offerings from the muppet on the throne.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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