Trump fires Sally Yates, the latest Georgian to defy him

Sally Quillian Yatest. KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Sally Quillian Yatest. KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Acting Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates became the latest Georgian to lead a high-profile resistance against President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday when she ordered the Justice Department not to defend the Republican’s immigration policy in court.

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” Yates wrote in a memo to federal attorneys.

It was a short-lived decision. Trump fired Yates late Monday and replaced her with Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is set to rescind the order.

“It is time to get serious about protecting our country,” read the White House statement announcing Yates’ ouster. “Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”

 


 

Yates was set to be out of power within days when Trump’s pick for Attorney General – Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions – is confirmed. Still, it put her in the pantheon of high-profile Trump objectors from Georgia.

Earlier this month, Trump unleashed a stream of criticism aimed at Georgia Rep. John Lewis after he questioned the legitimacy of his presidency and announced he would boycott his inauguration. Trump targeted Lewis, the civil rights icon, as “all talk” and said his Atlanta-based district was in “horrible shape.”

The president also vented on Monday at Yates, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, saying on Twitter that Democrats have “nothing going but to obstruct.”

Yates has deep roots in Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law and worked at the King & Spalding law firm in Atlanta before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta in 1989.

She was promoted to U.S. Attorney for the district in 2010 before Obama tapped her for the No. 2 job at the Justice Department in 2014. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate months later with overwhelming bipartisan support, including the backing of Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.

“She has been an equal opportunity prosecutor,” Isakson said then in endorsing her. “She’s prosecuted Democrats, Republicans, independents, Olympic park bombers, anybody that violated the public trust, any abuse of power.”

At that 2015 confirmation hearing, Sessions confronted her with a question about whether an attorney general can refuse a president’s order “if he asks for something that’s improper.”

Her response: “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.”

Within hours of Yates’ decision to defy Trump, Democratic circles in Georgia were abuzz with talk that she could return to Atlanta to run for governor or other statewide office in 2018. Her husband Comer, a veteran school administrator, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1996 as a centrist Democrat against Cynthia McKinney.

Her career is dotted with high-profile cases, including the prosecution of Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph and the successful public corruption cases against ex-Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, former Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis and former state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko.

She often talked of her job as a prosecutor as a calling, saying at a 2013 women’s leadership series organized by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she can’t imagine working in any other role.

“This is going to sound incredibly corny, but when I was at the U.S. Attorney’s office and realized the luxury that you have as a lawyer to believe that you’re on the right side of a matter, to be representing the people of the United States, and to carry that privilege every day – how do you go back to something else when you’ve had that chance to do that?”

Reader Comments 1

17 comments
oydave
oydave

Grandstanding on the way out is not integrity. It was a useless and pointless exercise.

BaronDeKalb
BaronDeKalb

The Trump Administration is demonstrating how much they are like the Nixon Administration.  Sally Yates ought to be on the next Democratic president's short list for US attorney general. 

BPM1978
BPM1978

Thank you Sally Yates!! You are a very brave person and you did the right thing. 

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Yates got just what she deserved and she knew she was toast when she said it, she was very unprofessional and set herself up to go to work for some Liberal Law group like the Barnes group in Marietta however she will properly end up at the DNC or ACLU. Good Riddance

BaronDeKalb
BaronDeKalb

@Infraredguy Best thing about Yates is all the crooked Republicans she put in prison here in Georgia, you know, the ones the Republicans pretend never existed: Ga. school superint. Schrenko, Fulton chair Skandalakis, and DeK. commissioner Elaine Boyer. For every crooked Democrat like Bill Campbell, there are 3 crooked republicans in office.  And she got 'em all. 

Rafferty
Rafferty

So proud of Sally Yates. Public integrity is rarely more expensive than it is here.

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

John Lewis and Sally Yates make Atlanta home of the Brave.On to the Superbowl!

HowdyJune
HowdyJune

This is a sharp woman and lawyer.  Not one of the terrorist events in the United States (9/11, Fort Hood, Orlando, Boston, Sandy Hook, Denver - none) was carried out by any citizen from any of the countries impacted by this ban.  But Saudi Arabia and Lebanon has some, but those countries were not included. There was no crisis when Trump took office on January 20, 2017, but there sure is now!

Joeleejohnson
Joeleejohnson

SUPER BOWL COMMENTARY--The particulars of this executive order amount to "middle of the field defense'. 'God Forbid'--But we'll probably see what President Trump's 'Red Zone' defense looks like with the next Islamic terrorist action.

oldteletech
oldteletech

Sally Yates is obviously not nearly as intelligent as her credentials would lead you to believe!!!!!  Hopefully there will be further action regarding her status as an attorney since she had taken an oath to defend the Constitution and the rules of established law.  I guess she learned under Obama that the Constitution merely makes suggestions and Obama and his ilk have decided that the liberal agenda should be the law of the land ignoring both the Constitution and the Legislative process.  You know - sorta like a Dictator!!  That "flushing sound" is her career as it should - I say SHOULD - come to a screeching halt.  But in actuality some extreme liberal organization is probably chasing after her even now........  As a Georgian and a UGA alumni - and a citizen of this country - I am embarassed by her!!!  

OldSmoky
OldSmoky

Now she is just a lawyer Democrat. She can defend Hillary.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Yates knew she was out, so on the way to the door she threw a bomb that was very unprofessional for a Lawyer, she does not know if Trumps EO was illegal or not, its only HER POLITICAL OPENION, she can go to the ACLU or be the DNC's lawyer. 

BaronDeKalb
BaronDeKalb

@Infraredguy infrared clueless about what is "unprofessional". Because Yates showed some INTEGRITY, she probably just punched her ticket to be your next Democratic US attorney general.

oldteletech
oldteletech

@BaronDeKalb @Infraredguy It really shows that her sworn oath has no meaning..... and that is important to the DemoRATS as long as it fits their agenda!!!!

papaof3
papaof3

you snooze you loose. Either get on the boat or swim. New sheriff in town.

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