RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Boardman writes: "Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was appointed to that position at the request of the Trump administration, for the express purpose of serving only until the confirmation of the Trump appointee for Attorney General. (Later White House characterizations of her as an Obama appointee, while accurate in a sense, are profoundly dishonest, as illustrated by Trump’s January 30 tweet calling Yates 'an Obama A.G.')"

Donald Trump. (photo: AP)
Donald Trump. (photo: AP)


Trump Betrays the Constitution, Slanders Career Government Attorney

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

04 February 17

 

The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.
White House Statement, January 30, 2017

he levels of duplicity in the opening paragraph of this White House statement are impressive. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was appointed to that position at the request of the Trump administration, for the express purpose of serving only until the confirmation of the Trump appointee for Attorney General. (Later White House characterizations of her as an Obama appointee, while accurate in a sense, are profoundly dishonest, as illustrated by Trump’s January 30 tweet calling Yates “an Obama A.G.”)

Georgia native Sally Yates, 56, is a career attorney for the Justice Department who was first hired by Reagan-appointed US Attorney Bob Barr (whose decidedly conservative career included leading the effort to impeach Bill Clinton). Her 27-year career in the Justice Department was impressive enough to win Trump’s interim appointment despite two prior Obama appointments (both approved by the US Senate). She was not, in any meaningful sense, anyone’s political appointee.

Early on January 30, 2017, reportedly after a weekend of contemplation and consideration of the president’s January 27 executive order on immigration, Yates issued a memo to top lawyers at the Justice Department. That memo, in carefully calibrated language, questioned whether the president’s order, already under legal challenge in half a dozen or more federal jurisdictions, was lawful, meaning constitutional. Already Justice Department lawyers in New York had been unable to offer any cogent defense of the order (in part because the Justice Department had almost no part in drafting it). Yates concluded her memo with appropriate caution in response to a murky and chaotic situation created by the order:

Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.

This is not a statement of defiance, this is a cautionary note in the midst of a situation spiraling out of control, with the government perpetrating injustice that is being checked by the courts. This is an invitation to be persuaded. The White House made no effort to persuade the acting Attorney General that the order was legally defensible. The White House has not made that argument to anyone publicly. The White House position is that the order is lawful. Because the White House says it is, which is not the way American checks and balances are supposed to work.

In its statement above, the White House asserts baldly that Yates was refusing to “enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.” The first problem is that the Justice Department has no enforcement role under the order, which was then being chaotically enforced by the Department of Homeland Security, sometimes in defiance of court orders (Virginia has filed a motion to hold the Trump administration in contempt of court). The Justice Department under Yates was merely declining to defend the erratic, unfair, and arbitrary enforcement of an order of dubious legality.

The White House claim that the order was “designed to protect the citizens of the United States” was flat-out false. The chaotic implementation of the order was powerful evidence that it hadn’t been “designed” sufficiently, and not at all well. The order, by banning Muslims from countries whose citizens had never attacked the US, did nothing to protect anyone, while doing much harm to thousands of innocent people including Americans. The terrorism “danger” is so slight that even the order itself had to invoke events of more than fifteen years ago (9/11) to create a simulacrum of credibility.

This is old style demagoguery, using inflated or imaginary threats to make the population afraid, a goal shared by terrorists of all stripes. “Islamic radicalism” is but the latest shibboleth to scare the pants off credulous Americans in the grand tradition of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, fighting ”them” (Iraqis, Iranians, Vietnamese, whoever) over there so we don’t have to fight them here, or the evergreen vast communist conspiracy (among others). These familiar styles of deceit, even though easy to debunk, remain in use because they still work.

In addition, we face an expanding universe of “alternative facts” (as Kellyanne Conway nicely phrased it), a universe in which demonstrable facts, logic, math, science, and the other touchstones of traditional, civilized reality no longer matter. George Orwell described something like this in his novel “1984,” where the official language was Newspeak (which had no word for science) and the population learned to believe that “Ignorance is strength.”

The White House statement on Sally Yates is closest to pure Newspeak when it says: “This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.” This is quintessentially Orwellian in the way it obscures the truth without actually lying. The “approval” alleged here is much less than meets the eye. The Office of Legal Counsel has, in the past, been notoriously solicitous of the president, telling him that almost anything he wants to do is legal. At its nadir, this office in 2002, through the good offices of Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee and his deputy John Yoo, assured President Bush that he could torture almost anyone in almost any manner he chose. Trump’s Muslim ban is every bit as “legal” as Bush’s torture regime, or as Newspeak has it: 2 + 2 = 5.

On March 24, 2015, Senator Jeff Sessions, now the Attorney General nominee, questioned Sally Yates about the Office of Legal Counsel during her confirmation hearings (in a clip that has gone viral). Sessions’ point was that the Attorney General’s office should say “No” to a president “if the views a President wants to execute are unlawful.” Yates agreed that was a duty of the Attorney General’s office.

The Office of Legal Counsel rubber-stamped unlawful torture, so its imprimatur has no automatic validity. Independent review is called for in any thorough and orderly process. As Sally Yates wrote in her memo:

My role is different from that of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)…. OLC’s review is limited to the narrow question of whether, in OLC’s view, a proposed Executive Order is lawful on its face and properly drafted. Its review does not take account of statements made by an administration or its surrogates close in time to the issuance of an Executive Order that may bear on the order’s purpose. And importantly, it does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.

Implicitly, the Trump administration may have put the order through such a limited review to avoid precisely the more searching, substantive questions raised by Yates. Whatever the intent, all the available evidence suggests that the administration made a point of avoiding the constitutional issues that are now before the courts. In that behavior, arguably, the president and his aides violated their own constitutional oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” (Article II, Section 1). Sally Yates took a similar oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Recently legal writers have taken Yates to task for the manner of her legal dissent. Attorney Alan Dershowitz misrepresented her actions, then criticized them, even though he agreed with her assessment of the policy. Law Professor Josh Blackman of the Cato Institute similarly mischaracterized Yates’s actions (as well as those of others), then tendentiously used his mischaracterization to justify Trump’s firing her. Columnist Edward Morrissey also mischaracterized the actions of Yates and the OLC, calling her carefully worded memo “insubordination” – a falsehood. Insubordination is disobeying a direct order, which Trump had not given, and in this instance, had no authority to give. These articles from The Hill, The Week, and Politico fail to meet minimal standards of accuracy, using straw man arguments to advance false conclusions.

The substantive issues raised by the executive order on immigration remain unresolved. The Trump administration could address them any time it chooses, but intellectual integrity is in short supply at the highest levels of government. The courts will address them in the fullness of time, which may or may not be soon enough. In any fair assessment now, of who was more faithful to their oaths of office, Yates has the clear advantage, so it’s no wonder the White House declined her invitation to persuade and instead fired her with a volley of calumny. Yates “betrayed” no one and nothing. As far as the Constitution goes, the actual traitors here are in the White House.


William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+65 # thekidde 2017-02-04 14:31
Drumpf is an abomination. A daddy-rich, womanizing pussy grabber who isn't fit to lead anything but a major embarrassment. the rest of the world watches in horror as America falls on its face.
 
 
+4 # Skyelav 2017-02-05 03:48
The repugs' second in a row.
 
 
+36 # dotlady 2017-02-04 14:59
Share your feelings, Mr. Boardman. It does seem as though the Constitution is being warped by the eye of the observers close to the administration, but that's nothing new, just newly alarming.
 
 
+43 # HowardMH 2017-02-04 15:06
The following paragraph came from the article and the questions asked are so appropriate for our elected representatives at this time, so call yours and ask these questions of them today, again tomorrow and every week until the orange headed idiot is impeached.

From Daily Kos: Donald Trump is my ex-husband Where is our nation’s broken dresser? How much longer will we deny we are in an abusive relationship with a lying, cheating, controlling, violent bully? When will we finally screw up the courage to call him what he is and reclaim our dignity and peace of mind? How did we even get to this point in the first place? Why did we allow ourselves to be seduced by an empty showman? How did we miss the red flags?

Get on the phone and CALL, CALL, CALL!!!!
 
 
+2 # Skyelav 2017-02-05 03:50
We were too busy drinking our French water to notice the wolf crept into the hen house and became another corporatist, run by the oligarchy, worse that worse, dishonest, disliked and loathed by insiders, and so on. Now we have to think about divorcing the bully and running back to good old uncle Mike Pence for solace.
 
 
+50 # Jaax88 2017-02-04 15:13
Thanks for the facts and an intelligent critique of the situation regarding Sally Yates. Another black mark for trumpian theory and practice of government.
 
 
+31 # DongiC 2017-02-04 15:16
Trump is hard to beat if you are a member of the Federal Judiciary. He almost always gets his way. Wait till his impeachment trial comes,
 
 
-90 # David Macko 2017-02-04 15:19
I have never had a job where I could refuse to perform the duties to which I had agreed without being fired. Why do Sally Yates and her supporters believe that she can refuse to perform her duties and not be fired?
This is a serious matter. It may become necessary to impeach President Trump if he should ever violate the Constitution. Yet the Left is completely discrediting itself by its insane opposition and is losing all credibility if any crisis occurs.
 
 
+26 # Jim Rocket 2017-02-04 16:29
Sally Yates got fired because she DID do her duty. The Constitution is pretty clear on the fact that the president is not above the law and he's not a king who can rule by decree. Yates did not believe Trump edicts to be in line with the Constitution and she stood up and did the right thing and was fired for her trouble. I assume by the term "the Left" you mean normal people and it is not insane to expect the president to abide by the Constitution. The problem here is Trump has no understanding of what the Constitution is it all. Hopefully there's some Republicans with a modicum of ethics and decency left who will put the Constitution before winning and impeach this guy.
 
 
+22 # Femihumanist 2017-02-04 17:14
[quote name="David Macko"]Why do Sally Yates and her supporters believe that she can refuse to perform her duties and not be fired?

According to the Nuremburg Trials and its aftermath, she was performing her duties and not "just following orders."
 
 
+26 # futhark 2017-02-04 18:44
Any federal office holder's primary duty is to honor the oath required upon assuming office, which is that “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

(Pub. L. 89–554, Sept. 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 424.)

Nothing in the oath binds such an officer to serve the whims of the chief executive. In fact, should executive orders be contrary to the Constitution, the officer has an obligation to disobey and even contest them.
 
 
+14 # lfeuille 2017-02-04 19:55
The orders were illegal.
 
 
+7 # Skyelav 2017-02-05 03:56
Impeach doesn't necessarily mean remove from office. Remember Pence et al are just waiting in the wings for Trump's removal.
 
 
+4 # Jim Young 2017-02-05 19:20
Quoting Skyelav:
Impeach doesn't necessarily mean remove from office. Remember Pence et al are just waiting in the wings for Trump's removal.


As painful as that might seem, President that violates the constitution so flagrantly needs to be impeached. I doubt Pence would keep Trump's appointees, or be as inclined to violate the constitution. He might even make it through a full term, but I think the Republican party would see the real anger and disgust the majority of Americans have for the bait and switch Trump has pulled on what they expected from him.

I know the feeling well enough, after voting once for GW Bush then seeing what he and Cheney unleashed on us with the ENRON protection they provided as they created false energy shortages and charged us up to 20 times the normal rates on the spot markets (even creating shortages by ordering energy from California then routing it back into the state at the spot market rates to cover the shortages they fraudulently created. I would have impeached Bush by August, even if that meant having to repeat the process on Cheney soon after he took over.
 
 
+1 # GreenBee 2017-02-07 17:44
Pence will be more of the same, but the alternative is to completely abandon standards of law. These people speak of "law and order" yet they disrespect the law. The only way to prevent more such disrespect of law is to enforce the law.

So let's have at Pence. If and when he breaks the law, we should enforce it then.
 
 
+17 # pegasus4508 2017-02-04 20:47
Your lack of knowledge as to the DUTIES of the Attorney General bespeaks the trump low information voter syndrome. Her JOB was to protect the people of America and defend the Constitution. Not the petty tyrant who is currently the president. Her question was regarding the legality of the Executive Order. One written by Steve "white supremacist" Bannon and not vetted by either Homeland security or the Dept of Justice. See the difference between your "job" and the attorney general? Naw. You probably don't read with comprehension either.
 
 
+15 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-02-04 22:03
Yates was performing her duties precisely. Why do you lie about this?
 
 
+18 # CL38 2017-02-04 22:23
Trump engaged in illegal behavior. Sally Yates refused to support it, as she should.
 
 
+7 # Skyelav 2017-02-05 03:54
[quote name="David Macko" Left is completely discrediting itself by its insane opposition and is losing all credibility if any crisis occurs.
I would agree completely except Sally Yates is doing her duties and not refusing to do them as you say. She along with a bevvy of right and leftist judges, I might add. How is it you think the exec has the right to over ride the constitution and not be taken to task for it. I mean all the exec orders flowing around now, not just the legal travellers (notice how they are all called "refugees" in the superficial print media? Yes, the left is quick to step in. But at last the left is stepping in instead of sitting idly by watching the ship sink then whining about it later..
 
 
+6 # WBoardman 2017-02-05 18:58
David Macko, as others point out lucidly,
seems to have no idea what Sally Yates's duties were.

Worse, he falsely accuses her of "refusing" to perform
those duties, when a straight forward reading of her memo
makes it clear that she was raising a serious issue AND
offering to be persuaded on it.

Macko also ignores the present reality, that Trump's
behavior already creates chronic, ongoing violations of the
Constitution, starting on day one:

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/41690-focus-trump-crashes-on-take-off

Macko invokes ad hominem insult to avoid reality:
the crisis started November 8 and continues without surcease.
 
 
+6 # MindDoc 2017-02-04 15:24
This is one of the most clearly stated and well-written articles addressing what happened. So much now is "alt-reality" spin by the Ministry of Distraction, Propaganda, and Trump-talk, that it is hard to find such clear-eyed reportage. Of course, given the onslaught of TMI (too much information), much of it simultaneous and highly concerning, taking a closer look at single-case examples as well as themes and modus operandi is an imperative of "journalism". Moreover, a democratic society must allow for free speech even - especially - if it includes fact-based reality & coherent reasoning. Thanks, William Boardman, and RSN - who I've just contributed to once again, thinking it's safer now to get back in the water "here" with much of the election-time trolling and fire-blowing subsided. May this community remain a powerful platform for truth, reasoning, discussion, and debate. We're still a democracy which needs free and open dialogue, even if Newspeak and "alternative fact" media sycophants try to extinguish actual "facts" or dissent.
 
 
+18 # HowardMH 2017-02-04 15:25
The following paragraph came from the article and the questions asked are so appropriate for our elected representatives at this time, so call yours and ask these questions of them today, again tomorrow and every week until the orange headed idiot is impeached.
From Daily Kos: Donald Trump is my ex-husband Where is our nation’s broken dresser? How much longer will we deny we are in an abusive relationship with a lying, cheating, controlling, violent bully? When will we finally screw up the courage to call him what he is and reclaim our dignity and peace of mind? How did we even get to this point in the first place? Why did we allow ourselves to be seduced by an empty showman? How did we miss the red flags?

Get on the phone and CALL, CALL, CALL!!!!
 
 
-21 # carytucker 2017-02-04 21:13
There seems to be a sudden shortage of commentary on this site about how we should get down on our knees and thank our lucky stars that we aren't suffering under the lying war-mongering President Clinton. Such ingratitude.
 
 
+1 # Skyelav 2017-02-05 03:58
Not if but when and it was proper to hold off executing them if Justice thought they needed further exploration. Am I right?
 
 
-11 # Skyelav 2017-02-05 04:01
[quote name="carytucke r"
get down on our knees and thank our lucky stars that we aren't suffering under the lying war-mongering President Clinton. Such ingratitude.
I do every single day.
 
 
-8 # librarian1984 2017-02-06 07:51
Agreed. DT is destabilizing but the left is waking up, and every crazy day I'm still relieved Clinton is not POTUS.
 
 
+6 # seeuingoa 2017-02-04 16:10
You better impeach him for whatever reason
before it is too late,
 
 
+2 # ericlipps 2017-02-05 08:54
Quoting seeuingoa:
You better impeach him for whatever reason
before it is too late,

Unfortunately, that would leave us with President Mike Pence. Pence is Trump's impeachment insurance just as Cheney was Dubya's and Agnew (before his resignation in disgrace) was Nixon's.
 
 
+14 # Sense 2017-02-04 16:11
Another prime example of why the Federal government cannot be run as a business. This time it is called "the Constitution".
 
 
+12 # tclose 2017-02-04 16:24
An excellent defense of a government official who decided that duty rises above blind obedience. Thanks for a well argued retort to several other legal observers who seem to want to make an example of this act by the President, in order to cow other government officials into compliance.
 
 
+15 # kcmwilson 2017-02-04 18:03
"I have never had a job where I could refuse to perform the duties to which I had agreed without being fired." David...that was the whole point! She...Sally Yates...WAS performing her duties by staying the execution of what she perceived as a potentially unconstitutiona l directive! That is...or was...what her job is all about! You need to do a bit of research about what the Attorney General's duties entail before posting and "alternative facts" narrative!
 
 
+12 # angelfish 2017-02-04 18:19
I'm with you, HowardMH! How much longer are we FORCED to suffer this Moronic Wanna-Bee in our White House? TOTALLY Incompetent and NOT caring a BIT, he blithely Bulldozes his way, Playing at being President, Unknowing, Uncaring and Unmindful of the consequences sure to follow on his heels! WHERE is accountability? Elizabeth Warren just gave a Speech about Our duplicitous Justice Department HELPING the Russians Trash Hillary Clinton and assuring a Trump "win"! WHERE are ANY Investigations? All they have to say is, "My Bad", and it's "let Bygones be bygones"? If ANY of this Sleazy Business had been carried out by a Democrat, People would ALREADY be Pilloried on Pennsylvania Avenue or cooling their heels in Leavenworth! NO Justice? NO Peace! Get this incompetent Nazi and his Cabal of "Me First-ers" OUT of Washington for good and ALL before he lights a Fire NO-ONE can put OUT!
 
 
+1 # ericlipps 2017-02-05 08:58
Well, welcome to the world of unintended consequences, Hillary-haters. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and you had plenty of those when you (well, some of you) insisted that Don Trump (cue "Godfather" theme music) was to Hillary's left and wanted peace and blah blah blah.
 
 
+13 # RMF 2017-02-04 18:25
The Order is unconstitutiona l because it violates the Establishment Clause. Excluding a particular religion serves to favor the non-excluded faiths, including those majority denominations already resident, and thus operates to favor or establish a religion.
 
 
+6 # JJS 2017-02-05 07:56
The Whitehouse statement has Newt's slimy, propagandist paws all over it.

Contrasting Words:
•betrayed (check)
•refusing (not on the list but fits)

Optimistic Positive Governing Words:
•protect (check)
•citizen (check)

Newt Gingrich's 1996 GOPAC memo:
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm
 
 
+7 # Jim Young 2017-02-05 19:48
The Newt Gingrich/Frank Luntz GoPac memo, "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" actually was written a year or 2 before but was beginning to be widely implemented in 1996 (about the time Elizabeth Warren and I both left the party we no longer recognized). It seemed based on an earlier Cato Institute suggestion to use "Leninist" propaganda tactics since they are so similar, Lenin went on to mention somewhat more active surreptitious sabotage of your opponent's programs that the public liked, even if you would do exactly the same thing if you could get the credit for the success. Mitch McConnell effectively sabotaged and stalled everything he could, earning my eternal disgust for him and the tactics a fund raiser had asked me (then a 5th Generation/50 year loyal Republican) to join in, telling me, "We have to fight dirtier than Democrats."

Elizabeth Warren may have left for different reasons, but I quit because of the implementation of the memo, and finally realizing that with the fund raiser's request, they were not going to stop that march ever deeper into the gutters. It is as if a right wing Lenin has almost completely taken over our country (at least the tactics are too similar for my tastes). Seems Gingrich borrowed from Lenin, Trump from Hitler, and we are the victims of the combined anti-American strategies
 
 
+6 # Rcomm 2017-02-05 09:37
For the past eight years the GOP has acted unconstitutiona lly so many times the two terms have become synonymous.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN