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Yates firing sends a message about Trump’s dissent tolerance

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Then-Deputy Attorney General nominee Sally Quillian Yates testified on Capitol Hill, in March 2015, in Washington. President Donald Trump’s abrupt, late-night firing of the acting attorney general, who had refused to allow the Justice Department to defend his immigration orders in federal court, sent a clear message to his future Cabinet about his tolerance for public dissent.

WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump’s abrupt, late-night firing of the acting U.S. attorney general sends a clear message to his future Cabinet about his tolerance for public dissent.

The president will soon have in place like-minded political appointees, not inherited officials like Sally Yates who refused to allow the Justice Department to defend his immigration orders in court. And they will be less inclined to publicly disagree with him.

But his haste in firing an Obama administration holdover, his spokesman’s admonishment that career employees should “either get with the program or go” and Trump’s comments about issues he wants federal prosecutors to investigate all illustrate how he moves aggressively to ensure his directives are carried out, even at agencies like the Justice Department that cherish their independence.

Over the decades, there has “been respect for the independence of the Justice Department as a law enforcement agency,” said Bill Baer, a high-ranking department official during the Obama administration. “There is reason for grave concern that the incoming president views the Justice Department just as another political weapon to go after people who disagree with him.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Yates was “rightfully removed” from “a position of leadership that is given to someone who is supposed to execute orders that are handed down to them properly.” While every American has the right to express an opinion, he said, the attorney general is “required to execute lawful orders.”

A scheduled Senate committee vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for the Cabinet post, was postponed today. Democrats cited the firing as a basis for the delay and some said they had no confidence Sessions would be able to stand up to Trump.

Monday night’s firing of Yates, a career prosecutor appointed to a political position by Democrats, underscored the growing dissent — even among some Trump administration officials — over his executive order that halted America’s refugee program and suspended immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. Yates’ refusal to defend the order was largely symbolic since Sessions would almost certainly support it once sworn in.

Yet the public clash between a president and his chief law enforcement officer over the legality of a consequential policy could affect the willingness of Sessions, or any other Cabinet appointee, to say no to Trump.

Sessions himself, at confirmation hearings for Democratic-appointed Justice Department officials — including Yates — has repeatedly demanded that they declare their willingness to stand up to the White House. He asked Yates at a 2015 hearing if she believed the attorney general or his or her deputy had “the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper.”

Yates replied that the attorney general must follow the law and provide “independent legal advice to the president.”

Sessions declared at his own confirmation hearing that he understood the importance of disagreeing with the president.

“You simply have to help the president do things that he might desire in a lawful way and have to be able to say no, both for the country, for the legal system and for the president, to avoid situations that are not acceptable,” he said.

That’s not always easy.

During the campaign and after taking office, Trump has waded into legal matters in ways that could call into question the Justice Department’s vaunted independence.

He said at one point he didn’t think Hillary Clinton should be investigated further for her email practices, even though such a decision would surely be up to the FBI and Justice Department. He also demanded an investigation into allegations of voting fraud without presenting evidence of a problem, though federal lawyers would almost certainly need reasonable suspicion to embark on a probe.

Justice Department officials have long asserted their independence from the White House, and in some cases have lost their jobs or were prepared to lose them.

Famously, as deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, current FBI Director James Comey clashed with White House officials in the hospital room of Attorney General John Ashcroft over the reauthorization of a government surveillance program and later prepared his resignation. A Nixon-era attorney general and his deputy both resigned rather than fire an independent prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

There’s also precedent for the Justice Department declining to enforce laws that its leader believed unlawful, including when Attorney General Eric Holder in 2011 said the department would stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act.

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch today praised Yates’ stance as part of that tradition, saying the department’s “first duty is always to the American people.”

Though Democrats applauded Yates, the Trump White House and other Republicans argued that she abdicated her responsibility.

George Terwilliger, a deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, said the honorable thing to do in a “crisis of conscience” is to quietly resign. Disagreeing with the law, he said, is no excuse for not enforcing it.

“It undermined the independence of the institution of the Justice Department,” Terwilliger said of Yates’ announcement, “and was an affront to the career men and women of the Justice Department who every day have to go into court and represent the position of the United States — whether they agree with it or not.”

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  • When you are the boss, you do not keep losers who willfully fail to do as they are told.

    Sally Yates will have to find a job she can handle. Word is Walmart told her “Not here.”

    • Do not follow blindly! Maintain your focus of what’s best for the American people. Trump Cabinet nominee, Jeff Sessions, insisted that JD nominees prove they can stand up to the White House as it should be. Trump will now have only “yes” men and that’s pretty scary. Sally Yates stood her ground as is her right.

      • What are you using for facts? Mattis and others are so clearly not “yes men.” Yates was simply making a political statement. The Executive Branch is now led by an Executive, not a community organizer. It will certainly look and operate differently. It will also get things done and make decisions, which Obama couldn’t do. Trump is going after ISIS and locking the doors first, not after the cow runs away. We are about to eradicate ISIS and we need to take some precautions before that starts. Obama would have told the whole world what he was going to do before doing it (and then fail to act). I doubt that even the 1st shoe has dropped yet. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

      • Maybe you forgot something. Yates was not elected by the people so she does not set US policy.
        What she advocated was not best for US citizens, but rather foreigners who have no right to direct US policy either.
        She follows the directives of the elected POTUS. Yes, she has the right to stand up for her views. But Trump is her boss and if she is insubordinate, he has the right and duty to fire her.
        If she was an honorable person she would have just resigned but she would rather get fired so she could play the standard Demo victim card.
        Just wondering: are you a “No”man if your boss asks you to do something? If so, I’d say you’re probably unemployed.

      • Publicbraddah – Saying if you were in a supervisory position, told your workers what to do, and they didn’t do it you are ok with this right?

        Which means you look like a “Weak Link” supervisor who can’t get the job done, no clue of the responsibilities.

        Clearly you have never held a supervisory position, been responsible for others, not leader material. Good to see some people know their limitations.

    • This is the road to suppression of all dissent and oppression of everyone by a dictatorial authoritarian Administration. Our democracy is in great danger now. Soon we will be all slaves to the tyrannical system and government.

    • Richard Nixon wannabe (Trump) will not last a year in office since he can’t handle any dissent and will be forced out after trying to create a dictatorship like his pal Putin has done in Russia. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Trump’s admiration of despots such as Kim Jong Un will be evident as he tries to purge everyone who tries to enforce the constitution that Trump is treating like a roll of toilet paper now.

  • Spicer is next. King Louie went through 3 campaign managers in 8 months. The he sacked Giuliani and Christie like 2 cakes of stale stink Italian cheese.

  • Trump is putting his marker out there in yet another fulfillment of his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” Some think that is just the upper echelon of personnel – deputy directors and such. But his real goal is to get the atmosphere so acrid for those in the rank and file and make them either come to approve Trump’s narrative of things or get out.

    This is dangerous as this may start the process of killing off a whole swath of those in the ranks that have true institutional knowledge of how things work in Washington, and beyond. But on a flip side, it seems quite apparent that Trump thinks those with that level of knowledge is dangerous and therefore need to be removed so that fresh blood and ideas come into play.

    This is the prelude to that tussle. WWE has nothing on what is about to happen at this level.

  • What a stupid article. What president would put up with a subordinate that defied his orders? If this person, Yates, had any integrity she’d have resigned.

    • As an AG Yates had the responsibility to provide legal counsel. Trump oes have a law degree. He did not pass any law board exams. Singling out a particular group based on religion or ethnicity even if you do not name it as such is unconstitutional. There is clear precedence to this in our country. Additionally, high ranking Nazis used the defence that they were just following orders. The trial tribunals, manned heavily by representatives of the US convicted them saying that there is a higher responsibility of morals that individuals must act upon. The Nazis were executed. Our military stresses the UCMJ which states that personnel have a duty to disobey orders that are clearly unlawful, unconstitutional or immoral.

      • Get a clue. You’re comment is a typical Socialist tin hat Dem response. Her duty was to execute the law. She even admitted it was a moral choice. Her backers said it was a political choice. The directive was both constitutional and legal. But coming from an Odumbo supporter who went against all constitutional directives of executive Power you Dems are a joke.
        P.S.Trump should fire all the following; Heads and assistant heads of the VA( and prosecute
        , Heads and assistant Heads of the IRS involved in illegal activity against political foes of Dems(and prosecute), all the EPA and ERA heads and assistant Heads and go back and prosecute Holder for Fast and Furious

    • Which begs the question should the EO eventually be judged illegal, would she be able to claim unfair termination? Especially if the cause was for this specific action.

      • I think the EO was processed through her department (DOJ) to confirm it’s legality. So if the DOJ determined that the EO was legal but eventually deemed as illegal does that mean she failed do her job? Can you claim unfair termination if this was the case?

        • I’ve read that EO was crafted largely without the DOJ’s involvement, relying primarily on Homeland and Trump’s staff, without the benefit of enough time to thoroughly plan the rollout. I’d assume if that all were indeed true, and this lady’s legal opinion were to be verified, that essentially she was just doing her job.
          Loose comparison, but can a boss legally require an employee to do something improper?

        • From npr.org: “The Justice Department confirmed its Office of Legal Counsel had done a review of the order to determine whether it was “on its face, lawful, and properly drafted.”

        • She’s a political appointee who serves at the discretion of the President…this isn’t a Supreme Court Judge where’re talking about here.

        • Who the heck reads or watches CNN anymore!!! Any you believe their nonsense!?!?! Talk about FAKE NEWS!!!!

        • “Many people are under the impression that The Huffington Post is some form of newspaper or news publication. In fact, The Huffington Post is a news aggregation and blog system. ”

          Try again.

  • Yates deserved to be fired. She was free to advise Trump in private about her concerns but once Trump made his decision it was her responsibility and duty to do what
    Trump wanted done. It is as simple as that. If she was unwilling to do what Trump wanted done, she was free to resign. Instead she chose to grandstand for political purposes.
    The mistake Trump’s advisers made was not to vet Yates when she was made acting AG. Given that the Senate Democrats intend to delay and obstruct the voting on confirming
    Trump’s cabinet nominees, his advisers would be wise to vet all those Obama holdovers who are in acting positions and get rid of those who do not understand the oath they
    took to do their duty. They are free to dissent in private but once the order comes down, they are responsible to follow orders. If not, resign.

    • Trump is steam rolling all his Executive Orders and nominees into office, and they are not given time to be properly understood and vetted. This is like watching our government and democracy headed toward a disaster.

      • You mean like Odumbo with every black/police interaction being “racist” “crucify the police…Heil Barrack. or like Iran is our friend like it or not we will give them everything…heil Barrack…or like Cuba is not a human rights or political threat all you X-cubanos be dammed…heil Barrack on and on!

  • yates’ firing exposes more about her narcissistic democrat self than it says about triumph. it was yates who ruled that triumph’s executive order was unconstitutional and refused to enforce it. it was yates who publicly defied triumph’s executive order and who issued orders of her own countermanding triumph’s executive order.

    for her actions, yates deserves to be fired.

    as attorney general yates has no authority to determine any law or order unconstitutional. the authority for determining if a law or order is unconstitutional rests with the judicial branch of the government. as attorney general yates’ duty is to enforce and defend all laws and presidential executive orders.

    yates could have and should have advised triumph in private of her concerns and offered her resignation if triumph did not accept her advice.

    yates exemplifies the democrats’ scorched earth strategy in dealing with triumph.

    rather than finding common ground in triumph’s executive order with obama’s previous short term ban on muslim immigration and with bill clinton’s program to protect america’s borders and deport criminal illegal aliens yates succumbed to the chance to steal away the headlines from triumph.

    • Yates had thirty years with the Justice Department and has a good background in the Constitution and the law. Trump has zilch in experience in government and knows even less about our Constitution and the laws of this land.

  • What Sally Yates did was not dissent; it was pure, unadulterated and willful disobedience. The mistake Trump made was keeping her on as Acting Attorney General pending the confirmation of Senator Sessions. The unfortunate thing is that she now will become the poster person for some liberal cause like Sandra Fluke was for promoting contraception coverage in Obamacare.

    • oh but s/a might claim that it is only repeating the word that is repeated by periodicals of its ilk. it will not take responsibility for its use as it causes a palor on the POTUS’ office.

  • Give me a break, Obama used the DOJ as a political tool of his for 8yrs. Holder and Lynch failed to apply the rule of law evenly across the board. He politicized the DOJ from day one. Yates was only a temp till Sessions got confirmed. She would not have been retained once he took over at all.There was no risk on her part. She only had a week left of employment. Just a liberal parting shot out the door from an Obama loser.

  • Dissenters please stop complaining about the President or your dislike of him and his actions. There is a very simple means to eliminate your disagreement. Leave for Canada or Mexico it’s right next door and they most likely can cater to your wishes, agenda or what have you. Should you stick around kindly conduct yourselves civilly until its time to vote for a new President or re-elect the Present one! Mahalo!

    • I think Trump will have a “lock” on re-election if he reschedules marijuana from schedule I, to schedule II or just completely lifts any restrictions of marijuana nationally.

  • the POTUS dissent intolerance is nothing new to any kind of major administrative change. in usual practice, a perfunctory resignation comes as a part of that change – especially in appointed positions. in that light, her dismissal is a tardy affect of her outwardly dissenting her new boss and not tendering a timely resignation.

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