Important New Ryan Lizza Piece on Sally Yates

by teacherken –

just up at the website of The New Yorker, where it will appear in the May 29th issue.  It is titled Why Sally Yates Stood Up to Trump and has the subtitled “The former acting Attorney General reflects on the F.B.I., Michael Flynn, and how the President ended her career at the Justice Department..”

It is the result of the first interview Yates has given since she was fired by the President.  Lizza conducted his interview of Yates the day after FBI Director James Comey was fired.

There will be a lot of background about Yates — she is an impressive person.

It is a well-written article, one that you should read.

Let me offer a few selections to whet your appetites.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

It is hard to locate when President Trump first declared war on the government establishment, but the story may well begin on the night of January 30th. Three days earlier, Trump, prodded by his most ideological aides, had issued an executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. On the 30th, Sally Yates, the acting U.S. Attorney General, refused to defend the order, saying that she was not convinced that it was lawful. Trump reacted with a fury not seen in the White House since the Nixon era.

Some basic information about Yates, who comes from a long line of lawyers among whose family friend was Griffin Bell, who became AG under Jimmy Carter, and the reaction Yates had when the interview touched on her being fired.

Sally Quillian Yates, who is fifty-six, spent more than two decades as a federal prosecutor in Georgia before being named a U.S. Attorney and then the Deputy Attorney General by President Obama. She and her husband, Comer, live in Atlanta, but she keeps a modest apartment in Washington, where I met her for her first interview since her career at the Department of Justice ended. Yates was composed, disciplined, and sharp-witted as she spoke about her brief time in the Trump Administration, but she showed more emotion when we came to the moment of her firing.

“Intellectually, I absolutely knew that this was a strong possibility,” she said. “But I didn’t want to end my service with the Department of Justice by being fired. Of course, I was temporary—I understand that. But, after twenty-seven years, that’s not how I expected it to end. Knowing something intellectually, and feeling it emotionally, as I am demonstrating right now, are kind of two different things.”

You will learn a lot of details about her career, including an important case she did before she entered government service.  She did so with the encouragement of Bell, and she was hired by Bob Barr, who thought highly of her.

She prosecuted a number of significant cases, including some high profile Democratic politicians, as well as obtaining the conviction of Eric Rudolph, who bombed the Atlanta Olympics and several abortion clinics.  You will learn in the piece why Rudolph did NOT get the death penalty.

Here is a paragraph on some other cases:

As a U.S. Attorney, Yates pursued several significant white-collar criminal cases, among them a Ponzi scheme in which some hundred and fifty people were defrauded of more than twelve million dollars; Allergan’s fraudulent promotion of Botox as a treatment for headache, pain, and juvenile cerebral palsy; and an international hacking ring that stole nine million dollars from more than two thousand A.T.M.s in less than twelve hours.

Here is some material on how she reacted when she first learned about the immigration executive order, on which she had NOT been briefed even though she had been in the White House in the Counsel’s Office before it came out:

Yates went back to her office, where she weighed her options: she would either resign or refuse to defend the order. She told me, “But here’s the thing: resignation would have protected my own personal integrity, because I wouldn’t have been part of this, but I believed, and I still think, that I had an obligation to also protect the integrity of the Department of Justice. And that meant that D.O.J. doesn’t go into court on something as fundamental as religious freedom, making an argument about something that I was not convinced was grounded in truth.” She went on, “In fact, I thought, based on all the evidence I had, that it was based on religion. And then I thought back to Jim Crow laws, or literacy tests. Those didn’t say that the purpose was to prevent African-Americans from voting. But that’s what the purpose was.”

She continued, “This is a defining, founding principle of our country: religious freedom. How can the Department of Justice go in and defend something that so significantly undermines that, when we’re not convinced it’s true?”

I hope that is enough to convince you to read the piece.

You really should.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos