Trump Tells Acting A.G. ‘You’re Fired,’ Probably Just Like That

Trump Tells Acting A.G. ‘You’re Fired,’ Probably Just Like That

Sally Yates (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sally Yates (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

And now we play our game of who wants to be Elliot Richardson.

President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. He said she “betrayed” the administration, because she refused to defend his immigration ban. From the New York Times:

Ms. Yates’s decision confronted the president with a stinging challenge to his authority and laid bare a deep divide at the Justice Department, within the diplomatic corps and elsewhere in the government over the wisdom of his order.

“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,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers.

So Ms. Yates gets to leave with her honor intact. Next up is Dana J. Boente, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Is there a William Ruckelshaus in the building?

Richardson and Ruckelshaus were acting A.G.s famously fired by Richard Nixon for refusing to comply with his unconstitutional orders. Eventually, Nixon found someone to carry his water, Robert Bork. People always seem to forget that about Bork when talking about his failed Supreme Court nomination.

The current chaos at the Justice Department brings into sharp relief the importance of stalling, delaying, and fighting the confirmation of Jeff Sessions to the very end of need. It is worth noting that Jeff Sessions is all about the Muslim ban. It’s also worth noting that Yates was overwhelmingly confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate in 2015, but that Sessions was one of the 12 “no” votes against her. And also Jeff Sessions was deemed too much of a racist to get a federal judgeship, but I guess that’s old news.

In the meantime, does firing Yates open up a hole in our national security apparatus?

Mr. Trump has the authority to fire Ms. Yates, but as the top Senate-confirmed official at the Justice Department, she is the only one authorized to sign foreign surveillance warrants, an essential function at the department.

It’s unclear if this is true, but for those playing along at home: Trump says the Muslim ban is going to keep us safe (it’s not), and he’s so committed to it that he’s given up for a time our ability to legally surveil foreign threats, something that arguably does keep us safe.

UPDATE (10:30 p.m.): It appears that Dana Boente can in fact sign FISA warrants.

UPDATE (11:35 p.m.): Here’s a detailed analysis of the FISA warrants issue, from Lawfare.

This seems like a good time to mention that Donald Trump has been president for ten days. If he abdicated tomorrow, he’d get a mention as one of the worst presidents in American history. This is only the beginning of the roiling sh*tshow Trump has made of American government.

The Jeff Sessions confirmation is now a Senate vote on the Muslim ban. Keep that in mind the next time you hear John McCain or Lindsey Graham or any other Republican try to distance themselves from the ban while still embracing Trumpism.

UPDATE (11:00 p.m.): And now he’s fired the acting head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Trump Fires Acting Attorney General [New York Times]

Elie Mystal is an editor of Above the Law and the Legal Editor for More Perfect. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at He will resist.


Published at Tue, 31 Jan 2017 03:15:35 +0000

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