Sally Yates Just Demolished a Senator in Her Testimony

May 8th 2017

It's almost like former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is going through two Senate Judiciary Committee hearings at once. 

One is led by Democrats trying to get to the bottom of when the White House knew former National Security Advisor Michael Flynnhad been compromised by contacts with Russian officials.

The other is led by Republicans who are trying to discuss anything — from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails to President Donald Trump's travel ban — but that. 

To that end, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked Yates about her refusal to enforce President Trump's executive order banning travel from seven majority Muslim nations. Yates was fired shortly after she directed the Justice Department to stand down from enforcing the ban, which has since been ruled unconstitutional, revised, and mired in fresh court proceedings. 

Cornyn told Yates that it was "enormously disappointing" that she would "countermand the executive order because [she] happened to disagree with it." To rebut Cornyn, Yates reached back to her confirmation hearing in 2015, recalling what she was asked by none other than Cornyn himself. 

"I remember in my confirmation hearing, in an exchange that I had with you," Yates said,  "you specifically asked me if the president asked me to do something I felt was unlawful or unconstitutional ... would I say no? And I looked at this, and I believed it was unlawful and inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice. And I said 'no,' and that's what I promised you I would do. And that's what I did," she concluded.

The travel ban that Yates was fired over was indeed blocked by a Federal circuit court of appeals as unconstitutional less than two weeks after her dismissal. The administration introduced a revised version of the ban, which was also declared unlawful by a federal court. By coincidence, that ban was being appealed in a different circuit court at the exact same time as Yates' hearing was going on. 

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