The Jury Talks Back


BREAKING: Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Refused To Defend His Immigration Order

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 6:48 pm

streiff at RedState reported just a couple of hours ago that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover, had announced that she had ordered the Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s immigration order in court.

Guess what? She is no longer the Acting Attorney General.

President Trump fired his acting attorney general on Monday after she defiantly refused to defend his immigration executive order, accusing the Democratic holdover of trying to obstruct his agenda for political reasons.

Taking action in an escalating crisis for his 10-day-old administration, Mr. Trump declared that Sally Q. Yates had “betrayed” the administration, the White House said in a statement.

The president appointed Dana J. Boente, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as acting attorney general until Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is confirmed.

I have argued in recent days (see here and here, for example) that — while I agree with the thrust of Trump’s order on a policy level, and want to avoid seeing the United States fall into the trap that Europe has regarding Syrian refugees — Trump’s order, in my opinion, violates the law. I think he lacks the authority to make the changes he made on his own, and needed to work with Congress, which has Constitutional authority over matters of immigration and naturalization.

But that’s my opinion, and I am no immigration law expert. I have also noted that people I respect have disagreed with me, and I have acknowledged that I don’t know for sure how a court would rule. I don’t think the order is so patently illegal that a partisan DoJ official should refuse to defend it.

I think Trump did the right thing here.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


  1. I’ve seen it reported that (a) FISA warrants must be signed off on by a Senate-confirmed DOJ official, and (b) Ms. Yates was the last.

    If that’s true, then there is no legal process for obtaining a FISA warrant until Sen. Sessions is confirmed.

    Based on that, I think President Trump should have waited until after Sen. Sessions was confirmed and *then* fired her.

    Comment by aphrael — 1/30/2017 @ 6:51 pm

  2. I don’t suppose there is any point to saying Ding, is there?

    Ah, the hell with it.


    Comment by Patterico — 1/30/2017 @ 6:51 pm

  3. I don’t know if that’s true or not aphrael — it may well be.

    If it is, then after the Judiciary Committee votes on Sessions tomorrow, McConnell should immediately take up his nomination on the Senate floor and call for a vote.

    Under the Rules, any Dem. could oppose it, but McConnell should make them.

    Comment by shipwreckedcrew — 1/30/2017 @ 7:03 pm

  4. I don’t like Sen. Sessions (although I don’t think it’s worth any effort to try to persuade the Senate to vote against confirming one-of-their-own, and so I have not pestered my Senators about him), AND I think that would be a completely reasonable response on the part of Sen. McConnell.

    Comment by aphrael — 1/30/2017 @ 7:06 pm

  5. Maybe he thinks it’s more important not to have an openly defiant Acting Attorney General, aphrael. That’s not an insane calculation.

    Comment by Patterico — 1/30/2017 @ 7:07 pm

  6. This got addressed in the main thread: the law allows the President to appoint any official *who was confirmed by the Senate*, which includes US Attorneys. He appointed a US Attorney as acting AG, so there is no problem.

    Comment by aphrael — 1/30/2017 @ 7:11 pm

  7. Internet references to “Monday Night Massacre” in 3 … 2 …

    Comment by Quibus Vigilius — 1/30/2017 @ 7:12 pm

  8. Dammit I forgot to do the YOU’RE FIRED joke in the headline.

    I’m the one who should be fired

    Comment by Patterico — 1/30/2017 @ 7:32 pm

  9. The departed AG made a massive political miscalculation. They were winning big league on the optics.

    Then again, just who in the party was she to coordinate with? Schumer, I guess.

    They lost all their momentum and they have given DJT hole cards to play anytime Deep State refuses to follow lawful directions and orders.

    Comment by Ed from SFV — 1/30/2017 @ 7:41 pm

  10. We are certainly living in interesting times.

    Comment by felipe — 1/30/2017 @ 7:52 pm

  11. I’ll tell you what, it sure beats AG AG mumbling and fumbling to ‘splain to the Senate, sweaty-palmed, why the Shrub had the temerity to fire two (I said two — out of 93) U.S. Attorneys.

    Comment by nk — 1/30/2017 @ 8:07 pm

  12. @nk:I’ll tell you what, it sure beats AG AG mumbling and fumbling to ‘splain to the Senate,

    Find out what it is President Trump is drinking and send a barrel of it around to all the Republican Congressmen.

    Comment by Gabriel Hanna — 1/30/2017 @ 8:19 pm

  13. “Internet references to ‘Monday Night Massacre’ in 3 … 2 …” – Quibus Vigilius

    Nailed it:

    “The stunning move was reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973, when he fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general, when they refused to dismiss Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor in the Watergate case.”

    Comment by Quibus Vigilius — 1/30/2017 @ 8:20 pm

  14. No worries, Yates has now been given Martyr status by the Left. And oddly, Evan McMullin, too. She should have had the backbone to resign, standing on her principles, rather than let herself get fired by the likes of Trump. That just has to be the worst. Heh.

    Comment by Dana — 1/30/2017 @ 8:21 pm

  15. Dammit I forgot to do the YOU’RE FIRED joke in the headline.

    Well, Good Heavens, there had to be one blogger in the world who didn’t use that headline.

    Comment by JVW — 1/30/2017 @ 9:24 pm

  16. At the moment, my best guess as to the correct procedure the deputy AG should have followed is, explicitly list the specific statutes she feels the order violates, notify the president, and then (and only then) instruct the DOJ to not defend those specific aspects of the EO (but to go on defending the rest).

    She did not do this. Instead, she made what looks very much like a political play. Perhaps she assumed that Trump would ask for her resignation, which is the usual method. Instead, he outright fired her.

    I very much approve of the intent of the EO, though I still have qualms as to the legality of some aspects. That said… I think Trump was right to fire her.

    The left, of course, will freak out… but they are freaking out so much these days, who cares?

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 1/30/2017 @ 9:46 pm

  17. Nixon didn’t fire his AGs — Richardson and Ruckelshaus resigned because they refused to carry out Nixon’s order to fire Cox, and Bork ended up doing that. So the Yates comparison to either Richardson or Ruckelshaus isn’t analogous, since they resigned on principle rather than remaining in office if that meant firing the special prosecutor, while Yates opted to remain as acting AG (basically, Ruckelshaus’ position) and not carry out Trump’s orders.

    And a Cox-Yates comparison doesn’t match up either, because of Cox’s specific role as special prosecutor in investigating the Watergate break-in, while Yates was the top person for the entire Justice Department. Cox was fired for trying to do his job, while Yates was fired for not doing her’s.

    Comment by John — 1/31/2017 @ 1:34 am

  18. Yes, and another thing the deputy AG might have done is go through the motions of preparing briefs and maintaining the government’s positions for one or two more days until she is replaced as she knows she is about to be.

    Unconstitutional or not, it’s not for her to decide unless it’s completely obvious (like banning guns) which it clearly is not. It’s her job to provide a vigorous defense to the government’s point of view, or if she can’t, pass the baton to someone who will in proper method (recusal, resignation, delegation, whatever).

    Comment by Ingot — 1/31/2017 @ 10:53 am

  19. Houston high school student detained:

    A 16-year-old Jordanian visa holder, who attends Katy High School, has been detained by U.S. immigration officials for more than three days following President Trump’s controversial immigration executive order, according to his brother.

    Mohammad Abu Khadra, who lives in Katy with his brother Rami, traveled to Jordan last week to renew his visa. When he flew into Bush IAH airport Saturday, immigration officials allegedly canceled his visa and detained him at the airport for about 72 hours. He was transferred to a detention center in Chicago Monday and has no access to his cell phone.

    His brother Ramirez isn’t sure if his brother was detained because of the ban or a problem with the visa, but Rami was told that he would be detained for two months. It is confusing since their country, Jordan, isn’t on the list of countries subject to the ban.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/31/2017 @ 12:00 pm

  20. I agree with firing Yates and with securing our borders, including better control of visa and immigration, but they did a terrible rollout on this flawed program.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/31/2017 @ 12:03 pm

  21. I agree that Trump should have fired Yates. As I understand her position, she refused to do her job, and ordered the DOJ to refuse to do their job, based not on her inability to construct a legal argument, but rather, because she thought the policy was unwise. That is not the AG’s job. If she wants to talk about policy, then she should run for Congress, or some other elected position. If she truly thought that it was unethical to defend this, then she should have resigned. This was pure insubordination.

    Comment by Rochf — 1/31/2017 @ 12:34 pm

  22. Is anybody making any comparisons between this situation and the one a year or so back when a state level official refused to certify or otherwise carry our her responsibilities with regard to marriage documents for gay couples?

    And is it more likely to be women officials who do this?

    Comment by POUNCER — 1/31/2017 @ 12:53 pm

  23. Excellent point, Pouncer. Let’s go back and find some choice comments on that one.

    Comment by Leviticus — 1/31/2017 @ 2:18 pm

  24. DRJ – I am hearing a number of (third-hand) stories, vectored through attorneys working to file habeas petitions on behalf of detainees, about people who are not from the named countries nevertheless being detained on entry.

    Comment by aphrael — 1/31/2017 @ 3:26 pm

  25. As was mentioned, people who hold dual-citizenship with one of those citizenships being in one of the bad countries also get held.

    So if any of these people have a dual citizenship in a bad country and tried to come in on their ‘good’ citizenship, like Jordanian say, they get stopped.

    Comment by Ingot9455 — 1/31/2017 @ 3:57 pm

  26. “… about people who are not from the named countries nevertheless being detained on entry.” – aphrael

    Any of those stories include reports that the detainees are being detained under the authority of Trump’s order, specifically? If I were trying to get sympathetic press for my client right about now, I’d probably be tempted to create that impression, even if they were being detained on other grounds, or from other than the 7 listed countries.

    I’m having a hard time with internet searches as there are tons of reports about detentions, but few citing specific grounds. I’d be curious to know the average, or typical rate of detention, delay or other instances of “heightened scrutiny” on a typical weekend before the order went into effect, and what the overall change is. Reporting on the total number of detentions without attempting to clarify on this point is either lazy or dishonest journalism.

    Comment by Quibus Vigilius — 1/31/2017 @ 5:00 pm

  27. “Internet references to ‘Monday Night Massacre’ in 3 … 2 …” – Quibus Vigilius

    Monday Night Massacre, Nailed It, Part II

    “Echoes of Watergate in ‘Monday night massacre’?” – CNN

    Comment by Quibus Vigilius — 1/31/2017 @ 5:34 pm

  28. @POUNCER:Is anybody making any comparisons between this situation and the one a year or so back when a state level official refused to certify or otherwise carry our her responsibilities with regard to marriage documents for gay couples?

    That state official was elected and could not be fired. In addition she was acting on religious grounds and was asking for accommodation.

    So no, not a lot of valid analogies to draw there.

    Comment by Gabriel Hanna — 1/31/2017 @ 6:39 pm

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