Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is reported to be incensed about being out of the loop on Donald Trump’s moves on immigration, and Rex Tillerson, nominated as Secretary of State is reported to be baffled – and that’s before Trump sacked the acting Attorney General Sally Yates for putting a spoke in his immigration policy executive orders.
Yates said in a memo on Monday that she was “not convinced” that Trump’s order was lawful, nor that its defense was consistent with what she described as the department’s obligation to “always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
Yates claims she is ordering the Justice Department not to defend the executive order because it is not “wise or just.” This is quite significant. I am not aware of any instance in which the Justice Department has refused to defend a presumptively lawful executive action on this basis.
SECOND UPDATE: Some have asked what I think AAG Yates should have done, given her views of the EO. My answer is simple: Resign, and then publicly explain her reasons for doing so. If Yates believes that the President’s various comments about a “Muslim ban” undermine her ability to defend (or oversee the defense of) an executive action that OLC concluded (and she does not dispute) is “lawful on its face,” she should have stepped down as Acting Attorney General.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I also recommend Jack Goldsmith’s parsing of Yates’ statement here.
There are some questions about the legal basis of the acting Attorney General’s refusal to defend in court Trump’s refugee and immigration ban, but the President sacking the top law official has raised eyebrows dramatically. An essential element of a healthy democracy is to have an Attorney General able to act independently of Presidential influence.
Some are suggestion the US could be heading for a constitutional crisis.
And the AG is not the only high profile sacking on the same day.
The White House said late Monday that the country’s new acting attorney general pledged to “defend and enforce” the laws of the country shortly after President Trump fired the former seat holder who refused to enforce his order on immigration.
Trump fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general and an Obama appointee, dramatic fashion after she refused to defend in court his refugee and immigration ban. The Wall Street Journal reported that Yates learned of her firing Monday evening in a hand-delivered note from the White House’s Office of Personnel.
The firing came hours after Yates directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the executive order, saying she was not convinced it was lawful or consistent with the agency’s “obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
In a statement, Trump said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
Accusations of ‘betrayal’ have again been suggested as similar to a ‘1984’ world.
He named longtime federal prosecutor Dana J. Boente as Yates’ replacement. Boente served in the Eastern District of Virginia and will remain in the seat while Congress considers the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., which could happen next week.
Sessions could also be a contentious appointment. It is thought that he has been heavily involved in a ‘shock and awe’ approach to executive orders.
A lot of concerns have been expressed about how this is happening.
Trump’s order has faced condemnation from executives at top companies, including Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola.
It could impact on many businesses through disruption to employees.
At least three top national security officials – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department – have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it.
Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, officials told the Associated Press.
Mattis, who stood next to Trump during Friday’s signing ceremony, is said to be particularly incensed. A senior U.S. official said Mattis, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, was aware of the general concept of Trump’s order but not the details. Tillerson has told the president’s political advisers that he was baffled over not being consulted on the substance of the order.
I wonder how often top officials will be fired for not doing what Trump wants.
It could be that trump is just trying to stamp his power on proceedings, but past experience suggests there is likely to be ongoing chaos and mayhem.
After a chaotic weekend during which some U.S. legal permanent residents were detained at airports, some agencies were moving swiftly to try to clean up after the White House.
When Fox is this critical of Trump’s administration it should sound serious warning bells. It is more than just the left wing over-reacting.