January 31 2017
Note to Self: Don't call any of your liberal friends for a chat today. They will be too upset to speak coherently in the wake of the firing of Sally Yates.
Yes, Sally Yates, the fired acting attorney general, will no doubt become the next icon to the left.
But that doesn't negate one simple legal fact: she was legally obligated to execute the president's executive order, even if she didn't like it. The editors of National Review explain:
Like most Democrats, [now-fired Acting Attorney General Sally] Yates objects to the president’s executive order. Fair enough. But she is not a political operative, she was a Justice Department official — the highest such official. If her opposition to the president’s policy was as deeply held as she says, her choice was clear: enforce the president’s policy or quit.
Instead, she chose insubordination: Knowing she would be out the moment Senator Sessions is confirmed, she announced on Monday night that the Justice Department would not enforce the president’s order. She did not issue this statement on the grounds that the order is illegal. She declined to take a definitive position on that question. She rested her decision, rather, on her disagreement with the justice of the order. Now, she’ll be a left-wing hero, influential beyond her heretofore status as a nameless bureaucrat. But she had to go.
In his Morning Jolt, National Review's Jim Geraghty points out that Yates said in her letter on her refusal to enforce the order that it was not "lawful"--but that it didn't specify what laws it was breaking. Geraghty goes on to add:
I know that Constitutional rights don’t appeal to non-citizens, but I’m surprised Yates didn’t even try to argue that the executive order violates the equal protection clause by implementing a religious test. The fact that she didn’t lay out any legal or Constitutional argument makes me, a layman, suspect there wasn’t a convincing legal or Constitutional argument to make.
Instead, she wrote, “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities.” So she doesn’t think the policy is right? Boy, that sounds subjective. Good thing every single lawyer in the Obama administration’s DOJ believed that it was morally correct to enforce federal marijuana statutes in states that had legalized medical marijuana.
None of this means that the roll out of the order wasn't amateurish. But even if it had been well-executed, Yates would have likely opted to become a heroine to the left, putting her personal tastes over the merely legal that she was charged with upholding.