Monday night, acting Attorney General Sally Yates was relieved of her duties by President Donald Trump after Yates announced that the Department of Justice would not defend Trump’s executive order on refugees and travelers from various Muslim-majority countries. In cashiering Yates, Trump made it sound like Yates had been insubordinate, accusing her of “betraying” the Department of Justice.
But, as it turns out, Yates did nothing more than what she said all along she would do way back at her confirmation hearing as deputy attorney general on March 24, 2015. And, in an interesting twist, she received on that occasion a word of caution from none other than Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who informed her that a time might come when she would have to stand up to the executive branch. Sessions is now Trump’s nominee for attorney general.
SESSIONS: 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 the responsibility to say no to the President if he asks for something that’s improper? A lot of people have defended the [Loretta] Lynch nomination, for example, by saying, “Well [Obama] appoints somebody who’s going to execute his views. What’s wrong with that?” But if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General say no?
YATES: 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.
Meanwhile, it’s pretty clear that Sessions is, for the Trump administration, exactly what he sneeringly criticized Lynch of being: an appointee with no independence from the president’s views.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat the Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.