7 Quotes From Sally Yates' Testimony That Cement Her Place In The Resistance
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates spent Monday testifying in front of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Russia and Michael Flynn. She stood her ground, informing the committee about her role in President Donald Trump's early administration and addressing questions ranging from what she told the White House about Flynn to the president's travel ban. Throughout the session, Yates' testimony statements showed a commitment to checking Trump.
Yates answered some difficult questions from senators Monday, and while she explained in her opening statement that she was limited due to the classified nature of some of the information, that didn't stop her from clarifying where she stood on several issues.
The majority of the testimony centered around Russia's interference with the U.S. election in 2016. Yates testified alongside former CIA Director James Clapper, and both directly confirmed that Russia had tried to interfere with the election, though neither could confirm if Russia had succeeded or not. Yates also testified that she had warned the White House that Gen. Michael Flynn could be blackmailed by Russians.
Trump eventually fired the acting attorney general in the second week of his presidency after she refused to enforce his travel ban.
Yates was a career federal attorney general who served as deputy attorney general under President Barack Obama. Before that, she spent 27 years in the Georgia Department of Justice. She has extensive knowledge of the law and the experience to back it up. Her words are a reflection of that.
1. She Called Trump's Travel Ban Unlawful
When asked about enforcing the travel ban, Yates replied:
In an exchange that I had with you and others of your colleagues where you specifically asked me in that [confirmation] hearing that if the president asked me to do something that was unlawful or unconstitutional and one of your colleagues said or even just that would reflect poorly on the Department of Justice, would I say no? And I looked at this, I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful. ... And that's what I promised you I would do and that's what I did.
When a senator misheard her and stated, "I don't know how you can say that it was lawful and say that it was within your prerogative to refuse to defend it in a court of law and leave it for a court to decide," she replied:
Senator, I did not say it was lawful. I said it was unlawful.
2. She Remained Committed To Serving The Public
In her opening statement, Yates reiterated her 27 years of service at the Department of Justice and noted that:
And at every step, in every position, from AUSA to acting attorney general, I always try to carry out my responsibility to seek justice in a way that would engender the trust and the confidence of the people whom I served.
3. She Schooled Ted Cruz On The Immigration And Nationalities Act
When Ted Cruz tried to ask if a statute from the Immigration and Nationality Act was familiar to her, Yates responded to by citing another statute, which she used in part to form her own decision about enforcing it.
...I'm also familiar with an additional provision of the INA that says no person shall receive preference or be discriminated against an issuance of a visa because of race, nationality or place of birth, that I believe was promulgated after the statute that you just quoted.
And that's been part of the discussion with the courts, with respect to the INA, is whether this more specific statute trumps the first one that you just described. ... But my concern was not an INA concern here. It, rather, was a constitutional concern...
4. She Reminded Everyone How Unprecedented The Travel Ban Was
Cruz also asked Yates if she was aware of any situation in which the Department of Justice has approved the legality of a policy and then three days later the attorney general directed the department not to follow it. She responded:
I'm not. But I'm also not aware of a situation where the Office of Legal Counsel was advised not to tell the attorney general about it until after it was over.
5. She Set The Record Straight About How She Was Informed About The Ban
Incredibly, Yates claimed that she was not informed about Trump's travel ban executive order from the White House.
...not only was department leadership not consulted here and beyond department leadership, really the subject matter experts, the national security experts, not only was the department not consulted, we weren't even told about it. I learned about this from media reports.
6. She Was Up Front About Flynn Lying To Pence
When Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Yates if Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence, she said he had.
That's certainly how it appeared, yes, because the Vice President went out and made statements about General Flynn's conduct, that he said were based on what General Flynn had told him, and we knew that that just flat wasn't true.
7. She Got Real About Russian Blackmail
Yates admitted that the Justice Department believed that Flynn was compromised by Russia and making false statements to Pence.
...to state the obvious, you don't want your national security advisor compromised with the Russians ... logic would tell you that you don't want the national security advisor to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him.
Overall it was an enlightening testimony, and she cemented herself as someone who can hold her ground — and more.