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
“I believed that it was unlawful,” Sally Yates says of her decision not to defend President Trump’s executive order on travel ban.— Matt Viser (@mviser) May 8, 2017
When asked about enforcing the travel ban, Yates replied:
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:
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:
3. She Schooled Ted Cruz On The Immigration And Nationalities Act
That moment Sally Yates bodied Ted Cruz.— Nerdy Wonka (@NerdyWonka) May 8, 2017
Don't come for Sally Yates if you don't know constitutional law. pic.twitter.com/eSpiREAQo1
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.
4. She Reminded Everyone How Unprecedented The Travel Ban Was
Yates to Cruz on ban: "I'm also not aware of a situation" where counsel was advised not to tell AG until it was over https://t.co/PejL2demhC— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) May 8, 2017
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:
5. She Set The Record Straight About How She Was Informed About The Ban
Yates said she heard about the travel ban from "media reports" https://t.co/lhK5i3S8Ik— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) May 8, 2017
Incredibly, Yates claimed that she was not informed about Trump's travel ban executive order from the White House.
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.
7. She Got Real About Russian Blackmail
Sally Yates on Michael Flynn: “You don’t want the national security advisor to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him.”— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) May 8, 2017
Yates admitted that the Justice Department believed that Flynn was compromised by Russia and making false statements to Pence.
Overall it was an enlightening testimony, and she cemented herself as someone who can hold her ground — and more.