People who choose to work in the legal field usually have a very strong affinity for not only the law itself, but also for the rule of law. That is, they understand that our society functions on the basis of laws, rather than arbitrary power and chaos. Any attorney being sworn in to his provincial or state Bar must swear an oath to uphold this fundamental principle.
Sally Yates is a lawyer. And until very recently, she was the United States Attorney General. As acting D.A, her job was essentially to counsel the President on the legality of his orders through honest, independent and impartial advice. In what has turned out to be an incredibly prescient declaration from her confirmation hearing two years ago, Miss Yates had made perfectly clear that she was ready to defy the President should his orders be unlawful or unconstitutional.
SESSIONS: You have to watch out, because people will be asking you do to [sic] things you just need to say no about. Do you think the attorney general has the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? A lot of people have defended the [Loretta] Lynch nomination, for example, by saying: ‘Well, he appoints somebody who’s going to execute his views. What’s wrong with that?’ But if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?
YATES: Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give their independent legal advice to the president.
SESSIONS: Well, that’s true. And like any CEO, with a law firm — sometimes the lawyers have to tell the CEO: ‘Mr. CEO, you can’t do that. Don’t do that. We’ll get us sued. It’s going to be in violation of the law. You’ll regret it, please.’ No matter how headstrong they might be. Do you feel like that’s the duty on [sic] the attorney general’s office?
YATES: I do believe that that’s the duty of the attorney general’s office, to fairly and impartially evaluate the law and to provide the president and the administration with impartial legal advice.
So, what exactly did Sally Yates do to warrant her termination? Well, she simply advised Justice Department lawyers not to follow President Trump’s executive order which sought to ban immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Why? Because she believed, with good reason, that the order was unconstitutional.
She gave her legal opinion, she upheld the Constitution, and she dared to defy her boss. She did her JOB. And for all this, she got fired. It’s no wonder she was recently nominated for the JFK Profile in Courage award, which recognizes a public officials whose actions demonstrate the qualities of politically courageous leadership. Isn’t it kind of bizarre to call someone courageous for simply doing what they’re supposed to? While what she did was certainly a form of insubordination, ultimately she didn’t “betray” anyone. She upheld the law, period. Wouldn’t we all do the same?
Edit: And the courts seem to agree with her. Not only did a Federal judge suspend key parts of the order, but a Federal Appeals court even denied the US government’s emergency request to resume the ban.