The Monday Night Massacre: Trump fires acting attorney general for refusing to enforce immigration orders

UPDATE: The Washington Post analyzes the nasty and hamhanded way Yates was fired.

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If you were already sentient on October 20, 1973, you’ll remember (as I do) the famous “Saturday Night Massacre” perpetrated by Richard Nixon. On that day, Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who, appointed to investigate the Watergate affair, had issued a subpoena for the White House tapes.  Nixon refused to comply, offering an unsatisfactory compromise. When Cox wouldn’t accept that, Nixon ordered Attorney General Eliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused to comply and then resigned. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and followed Richardson out the door. Finally, Nixon got his flack Robert Bork to do the firing. It was a shameful moment in American government. (I remember riding the Red Line to Harvard Station a few years after Richardson resigned, and found myself in the same subway car with him, amazed that he’d ride the T with the other plebeians. He was unmistakable: a very handsome man. I went up to him and told him I was a fan.)

Something like the Saturday Night Massacre happened last night. Sally Q. Yates, the Deputy Attorney General appointed by Obama, has been the acting Attorney General—the highest law enforcement official in the U.S.—until Trump’s nominee, Jeff Sessions, gets confirmed and takes office. Yesterday, considering Trump’s executive orders on immigration to be illegal, Yates decided that they would not be enforced, and she has the power to make that decision. As the New York Times reports:

By Monday afternoon, Ms. Yates added to a deepening sense of anxiety in the nation’s capital by publicly confronting the president with a stinging challenge to his authority, laying bare a deep divide at the Justice Department, within the diplomatic corps and elsewhere in the government over the wisdom of his order.

“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,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers.

That put Trump in a dilemma, since he’d issued an order that, in an almost unprecedented rebuke, his own branch of law enforcement refused to enforce. I guess thinking he was still on “The Apprentice,” Trump summarily fired Yates:

Mr. Trump’s senior aides huddled together in the West Wing to determine what to do.

They decided quickly that her insubordination could not stand, according to an administration official familiar with the deliberations. Among the chief concerns was whether Mr. Sessions could be confirmed quickly by the Senate.

. . . The president replaced Ms. Yates with Dana J. Boente, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying that he would serve as attorney general until Congress acts to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. In his first act in his new role, Mr. Boente announced that he was rescinding Ms. Yates’s order.

. . . Mr. Boente has told the White House that he is willing to sign off on Mr. Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration, according to Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., where Mr. Boente has served as the top prosecutor since 2015.

. . . Monday’s events have transformed the confirmation of Mr. Sessions into a referendum on Mr. Trump’s immigration order. Action in the Senate could come as early as Tuesday.

Yates, like Richardson, Cox, and Ruckelshaus, is a hero, or rather a martyr to our Constitution. Boente is the equivalent of Bork. What we have now, within only 11 days of Trump’s inauguration, is a Constitutional crisis, and a severe embarrassment to the Trump administration. Nixon never lived down the Saturday Night Massacre, and Yates’s refusal to enforce Trump’s orders shows how dubious they were in the first place. Of course Trump being Trump, he didn’t even consult her or other legal experts to see what they thought.

I am sickened, but it’s only 11 days in. There are 1448 days to go, and that’s if Trump stays for only one term.

Thank Ceiling Cat for principled people like Yates; let us hope that more of them will make themselves known in the coming months.

Here’s the White House’s statement about her firing. It’s unprofessional and unseemly, and brings up irrelevant stuff like the confirmation of Sessions and Yates being “weak on borders” and “illegal immigration::

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A hero:

United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Q. Yates during a press conference concerning former Federal Judge Jack Camp. Photo by Zachary D. Porter/Daily Report 12/02/10

Sally Q. Yates, Photo by Zachary D. Porter/Daily Report

93 Comments

  1. eric
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    It’s a sad commentary on how far we have sunk, that Nixon had to go through three republican choices before he could find someone to do his bidding, while today the very first one called up said yes.

    Its absolutely no surprise that he’s loading up the appointed positions with toadies. What will be more interesting (well, in the ‘may you live in interesting times’ way) is how he handles court rulings against him, some of which have already come down. He can’t fire sitting judges. And I can’t imagine that even the Roberts court will support the part of his Executive Order that prevents legal US residents from re-entering the country if their national origin is the ‘wrong’ type.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      We can always say bad things about Nixon, but he was also part of a time where partisan politics in Washington was far more restrained than it is now.
      I remember watching a documentary about Lyndon Johnson, and was much struck about how politicians, including Nixon at times, would campaign against their opponent but at the same time would emphasize how their opponent was a ‘good man’, or an ‘honorable and qualified man’, but that they just differed in opinions on how this or that should be run in Washington.
      Days long gone by.

      • Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        From afar, it looked like Obama had that spirit, too.

        • Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          He did. A level of class in the Oval Office I’m not likely to see again in my lifetime.

          And never saw before him (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II … nope. I was too young to remember Kennedy.)

  2. Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    sub

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 1, 2017 at 3:39 am | Permalink

      sub

  3. Stackpole
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Time to invoke the 25th amendment, Section 4?

    Won’t be easy and the outcome, no matter what it is, won’t be particularly satisfactory, but hey…

  4. GBJames
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Irony.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Nice find.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      I concur with Rick!

    • Walt Jones
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      I hope someone is the Senate mentions that before the vote on Sessions.

    • Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Hypocrisy is a GOP Core Value.

  5. Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I was sentient then, and followed the Watergate scandal closely. Nixon, vindictive as he was, makes Trump look like a saint.

    The moderate president of Iran said that Trump’s demonization of all Muslims is a great gift to extremists. It is also a stab in the back to all the moderate Muslim leaders.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      I cannot speak for Trump’s intentions, those are pure chaos. But recent actions may legitimately have been anticipated by someone who thought exactly that: put a ban on Muslims and draw the most crazy of them out.

      The stab in the back to moderates may also be intentional: Banner policy may be to have moderates take care of their own extrimists or simply be caught in the crossfire.

      GOP Strategy: turn your back on ‘others’ and hopefully they will burn each other to the ground. They derisively ignore that we are all from the same Lucy and we all live on the same planet.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Few have a greater loathing for Richard Nixon than I. But I would hesitate to say he makes “Trump look like a saint.”

      Trump, I think, is every bit as vindictive as Nixon. And he has the potential to be even worse: he’s also a fool, an incompetent boob in way over his head.

      Say what you will about Nixon — and you’d be hard-pressed to say worse than I have — he at least had a base level of competence. And, although “trustworthy” is hardly the adjective that comes to mind with Tricky Dick, I think he was less likely than is the Donald to lead the world into an international abyss, either intentionally or through bumbling inadvertence.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Take for example the Watergate end-game itself. Few aside from Al Haig know how close we actually came, once his other options evanesced, to Nixon playing his final card: calling out the military to encircle the White House to fend off Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski. When it came down to it, however, Nixon slunk out the back portico, across the south lawn, onto Marine One, off to San Clemente, and into ignominy.

        I have no confidence that, faced with similar circumstances, Donald Trump would go as gentle into that goodnight.

        • Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          Oh crap, I actually meant exactly the opposite of what I wrote! Interchanged Trump’s and Nixon’s name. Sorry. Senility is setting in.

          • Kevin
            Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

            I figured as much.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 31, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

            I should’ve figured as much, as well.

            Maybe I’m feeling the effects of my own encroaching dotage. 🙂

  6. Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Good for her.

    We (the people of good will) must confront and defy der Drumpfenführer at every turn and force them to show the hand. Every time. Again, again, again, and again.

    It’s going to be a lot of work for the next 4 years …

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Sadly, we know that Washington DC is now nothing more than a bag of politics and it is likely the Constitution and most of the rules of government that followed will be trampled under foot. It has been going that way for several years and now we get to live with the results. Congress had already surrendered many of it’s obligations to the executive branch so why not throw all of it under the bus.

    What congress should do is refuse to confirm his Attorney General nomination until he kills this Muslim band. They should also refuse to pass on his nomination for the supreme court until hell freezes over. Why let him set all the place on fire without throwing some of it back in his lovely face. The Congress has become a useless batch of hacks.

  8. Simon Hayward
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure one firing makes a massacre! Yates made a principled moved that had a good chance of getting her fired, generating maximum exposure for her conviction and bad press for the executive branch (or from the pot of his base perhaps good press). She was an Obama holdover, who would have been out as soon as the new AG is confirmed, so not a huge loss to her – I imagine she’ll be employed again sometime in the next few days (unless she wants a vacation – lawyers at that level who want to work don’t normally sit around too long). It does make her available for a supreme court nomination, perhaps he was just freeing her up for that 😉

    In the last week, she was in the acting AG job because someone was needed to sign specific surveillance warrants – nobody can do that now, per NYT – it needs congressional authorization and she was the only approved person left not already pushed out. So, clearly “cutting off ones nose to spite ones face” is well within the remit of the present leadership…big surprise.

    This whole debacle is sooooo depressing

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      “… so not a huge loss to her …”

      Yates has been traduced for “betray[ing] the Justice Department” by the president of the United States and his lackey press secretary. I hope that serves her as a badge of honor for the rest of her career. But let us not overlook that it took courage to stand up for her principles to her lawful superiors. It always does.

      • Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        That use of “betrayed” is extremely alarming.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        During her senate hearing Jeff Sessions asked her if she had the willpower to stand up to the president if he did something illegal. This may not have been what he meant, but he got an answer.

        • GBJames
          Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          What he meant, of course, was something like “Will you stop President Obama from doing things I don’t like?”

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 31, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            It would add to the irony if she had that question in the back of her mind when deciding on her course of action…

            cr

  9. busterggi
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    At least Nixon did some good things like starting the EPA and opening relations with China. I expect nothing good from the Trumpenfurher.

  10. Aelfric
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    So, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and more than anything, a die-hard opposer of the Trumpist agenda. That being said, I don’t think the Saturday Night Massacre is the right analog here. In fact, I think Ms. Yates probably should have resigned both as the superior ethical choice and the superior optical choice. “I have doubts” is a terrible reason for an Attorney General to refuse to execute a law (or regulation, or executive order….). The travel ban is awful and bigoted, so far as I am concerned, and I think it unconstitutional. But I think that has to be the test — not “I have doubts,” but “I believe this to be unconstitutional.” And, if in that position, I believe resignation is the proper choice. Cox was (basically) investigating Nixon. That means the Saturday Night Massacre was a special malfeasance. This to me is just the natural consequence of asking good people to enforce stupid policy.

    • veroxitatis
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      I somewhat agree. As a lawyer one can only offer advice as to the likelihood or otherwise of success or failure. One must do one’s best to put forward the best case, but without, of course, misleading the Court. Ultimately, the decision is one for the Court.
      Early in my career, I recollect a judge saying to me “Mr ( ) I am afraid one cannot make bricks without straw”. Well, of course I knew that and so too did my client, but he wished his day in court!

      • Aelfric
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Right. Without getting overly lawyerly, there’s a big difference between advancing an argument you know to be a loser and advancing an argument that is frivolous. You are sometimes constrained to do the former; doing the latter will get you sanctioned.

        • veroxitatis
          Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          Point taken. I cannot however profess to know the detailed position on these orders. (I am a retired solicitor in Scotland)

          • Aelfric
            Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

            I think you have a fine grasp of the issues. And while I am an American attorney, I spent one of the finest years of my life studying in Edinburgh.

            • Veroxitatis
              Posted February 1, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

              Glad you enjoyed your time in Edinburgh. I took my arts degree there and my law degree at Aberdeen. I live between the two cities. I trust that your appreciation of legal reasoning and philosophy was enhanced by obtaining some acquaintance with a civil (Roman Dutch) system as opposed to a Common Law system. Of course, it may be that I am being presumptuous and your studies were in other disciplines and subjects.
              Best wishes.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        A lawyer is ethically obliged to do one’s utmost in assisting a client even in cases of dubious merits. But one has no obligation — indeed, one is ethically prohibited — from assisting a client in achieving an illegal end.

        Yates concluded that enforcement of Trump’s order would have been illegal, as violative of the US constitution. Accordingly, she properly, and ethically, declined to seek its enforcement.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          I could be wrong but don’t think so – her client as Attorney General is all of us. The United States and not Trump specifically So seeing him doing something considered illegal is not exactly going against obligation. Her’s is to us and the constitution, not the president or his mob.

    • tubby
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      I think it was more damming for Trump that Yates offered him the opportunity to prove the legality and necessity of the order and instead of that or appointing a special prosecutor he just fired her. He cannot tolerate being questioned.

      • Aelfric
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        Well, as much as I disagree with him, Trump was well within his rights here. Our system is not one in which a president should be forced to litigate his policies before the Attorney General will enforce them. I think Ms. Yates was basically, in the right, although, again, I think it would have been optimal if she had resigned. It’s just that I can’t say on this narrow issue that Trump was somehow wrong (even if he is from a wider perspective).

    • Cindy
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      From what I understand, Trump bungled it and the ban on those with green cards will be sorted out.

      Furthermore, I do not believe that non-US citizens have Constitutional rights, which is why he is not breaking the law by banning immigration from certain countries. Yes, from certain countries. This means that anyone from these countries is banned – Christians, atheists etcs. it is not a “Muslim ban”

      I am a Canadian citizen. If US customs turns me back at the border, are they violating my US Constitutional rights???

      • Aelfric
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        Some parts of the Constitution do address themselves to citizens — say, for instance, the Fourteenth Amendment to our constitution. Others are negative prohibitions against government, like the Eighth Amendment — no cruel or unusual punishment. This is not based on citizenship. If an illegal alien were found guilty of, say, speeding, he could not then be drawn and quartered because it would run afoul of the Eighth Amendment.

        I think you’re correct that the equal protection argument fails for this reason. And normally I would agree that the “certain countries” works as well. But, we have the entire Trump campaign and his cronies fairly consistently calling for a “Muslim ban.” Where the stated goal of a law is simply a pretext for an unconstitutional goal, it cannot stand. Normally that’s basically impossible to prove. Here I am not sure.

        • Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

          The constitution protects “persons” for this very reason. Any person in the US or caught up in our legal system is protected by the constitution.

          However, there is no implied right for non-citizens to enter the US. That’s what this bears on, IMO.

          • Aelfric
            Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            I agree with all of this! But as I have said elsewhere, there are due process implications as to visas and green cards already issued, and the possibility that a religious proscription runs afoul of the establishment clause.

            • Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

              As I have said to my wife: Trump’s pattern his entire life has been to push everything to and beyond the limit of the law. And when caught, he buys off the officials and settles a gag-order-covered lawsuit.

              Why would we expect anything different now?

              He’s going to violate the law, repeatedly, and we (and the media, especially) need to be standing by to direct the sunshine of exposure on these violations.

            • Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

              Sorry, first comment was meant for elsewhere.

              I agree with your comment.

      • GBJames
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        Except that isn’t accurate.

        The ban is intended to “help Christians”. Consequently it violates our separation of church/state constitutional principles. The intent is to keep Muslims out. (Atheists don’t enter into it because we’re a big enough “out” community to draw attention.)

        • Cindy
          Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

          Are Christians a persecuted religious minority in those countries?

          How about the Yazidi?

          • GBJames
            Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

            Are you missing the point intentionally? Or…?

          • Aelfric
            Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

            Let me try this a different way. I understand you are not a U.S. citizen, but would you see the problem with a law that said “immigrants of the Christian faith are to be given priority over all other religions”?

    • eric
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      “I have doubts” is a terrible reason for an Attorney General to refuse to execute a law (or regulation, or executive order….).

      Word choice quibbling aside, a judge in NY has already issued a stay on part of Trump’s EO. So the acting US AG did have a credible reason to think his order was at least partly illegal.

      • Aelfric
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        Fair point, but that order did not affect the entire bill, just a narrow portion thereof. Moreocver, a temporary restraining order is predicated on (among other considerations) “a likelihood of success on the merits.” That is, the judge was saying “this looks like a good case that the law is unconstitutional,” not “the law is unconstitutional.” My apologies for being pedantic!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Had Yates stand been based on personal moral grounds, the appropriate route would have been for her to resign rather than enforce the order. But because it was based on her conclusion that the order itself was unconstitutional, she properly refused to enforce it rather than resign.

      • Aelfric
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        I wish she had spelled this about a bit more clearly, and how she arrived at that conclusion.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Thought of the “Saturday Night Massacre” right away, but I haven’t seen any news outlet make the comparison, yet. CNN has a piece pointing out that AG nominee Jeff Sessions asked Yates about her ability to stand up to a president on unlawful orders.

    • Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      After I thought of the analogy, which came to my mind immediately (though as readers have pointed out above, the parallels aren’t perfect!), I noticed that the NYT story also mentioned the SNM.

      • GBJames
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        It is exactly what I thought last night when I heard about the firing.

      • Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        NPR has mentioned it this morning as well.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Link to CNN piece. The questions were during Yates confirmation hearing in 2015.

      • Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Yeah, those are rich, especially since the questioner is Sessions!

        Hypocrisy is a GOP Core Value.

  12. darrelle
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Thank you Sally Yates. Can’t think of a better way to go.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Far be it from me to defend Robert Bork — I think he should have refused to fire Archibald Cox; I was relieved the senate rejected his subsequent nomination to the Supreme Court; and I think his judicial philosophy was wrongheaded — but it’s a bit harsh to call him Nixon’s “flack.” He was at the time of the Saturday Night Massacre the U.S. Solicitor General, the Justice Department’s chief advocate before SCOTUS.

    As for Trump, this is what he gets for showboating by trying to ram through his ill-thought-out policies before he had most of his key appointments in place, and without consulting those that are. This is strictly amateur hour; Trump has no idea how government works. He’s never had any interest in how government works, other than as to how he, as a real-estate developer, could get government officials to do his bidding through well-placed campaign contributions or deposits in the “favor bank.”

    • Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Trump thinks he’s a king. That’s what he thinks the Presidency is: He thinks it’s like being CEO of a company.

      And Bannon thinks he’s Richelieu.

      • busterggi
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Yes, Trump thinks he is king but Bannon really is Richelieu.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        In defence of modern royalty (in European countries at least), most of them are well aware of the limits of their constitutional powers and obligations.

        Trump apparently thinks he can do anything he wants, at the drop of a hat. He thinks he’s God.

        cr

  14. veroxitatis
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad” (wrongly attributed to Euripides)
    Let we, the people abrogate to ourselves the role of spurious gods. We might just drive him over the edge. Unfortunately, our supine and Brexit terrified Government has been of no assistance in this matter despite a petition bearing 1.6 million signatures of those who do not want an early State Visit by Trump and wish to protect Her Majesty from embarrassment and Lord knows what else!

    • Dave
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      How is our government “terrified” of Brexit? Last I heard was a robust defence of our position and a clear statement that we’re prepared to walk away if we don’t get a fair exit deal – a position I support.

      As for the anti-Trump petition, well call me unimpressed by 1.6 million petulant virtue-signallers jumping on the latest bandwagon of things to get outraged about. That still leaves 50+ million Britons who haven’t signed it. I have no time for Trump, and I wouldn’t have supported him if I’d been a US voter, but he is the POTUS whether we like it or not, and cold-shouldering the United States for the next four (or eight) years is not an option.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      You meant, perhaps, to write “arrogate” rather than “abrogate”?

  15. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Can anyone explain to me how the immediate and harsh travel ban against persons entering from certain countries is unconstitutional? Don’t think I am in favor of it! But I was wondering why it is illegal.

    • Aelfric
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      This is a thorny question, and many of the biggest complaints are actually procedural, rather than substantive — that is, the way it was enacted was slipshod, to say the very least. But as for substantive complaints, you have due process concerns regarding those who already held visas or green cards; you have possible equal protection arguments as to differential treatment; and you have possible religious challenges under the First Amendment. There’s an old common law doctrine called the “Lemon test” from a case called “Lemon v. Kurtzman.” It’s a bit unclear how much sway it holds these days, but it included a three-pronged test. The first prong asked whether the challenged action was enacted for a secular purpose. Usually, that’s a slam dunk “yes” and might have been here, but for Trump and his coterie talking of a “Muslim ban.” I certainly believe it should be struck down on that basis, but I am not convinced it will be. There you have my $.02!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        As well as talking of a Muslim ban, Trump has specifically said he wants to “help Christians” from the Middle East on CBN.

    • eric
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      IANAL but AIUI any legal resident of the US counts as a ‘person’ in terms of most constitutional rights. You can’t ban a Syrian resident from re-entering the US after vacation any more than you can ban you or me from re-entering the country after we go on vacation. So the bits of his EO that his administration have said explicitly apply to current legal residents are probably unconstitutional.

      There are also legal differences between people who apply to come to the US permanently (immigrants), and those who are coming here temporarily (such as on a work visa, study visa, and weirdly, refugees are counted in this group). AIUI the government has a pretty wide latitude when it comes to deciding who can come in temporarily, but federal non-discrimination rules apply to prospective immigrants. You can’t bar a potential immigrant based on race, religion, or national origin, for instance. So any part of Trump’s EO that seeks to specifically bar immigrants from these countries will run into legal problems too.

      There’s still some gaps in those arguments. The biggest one being new refugees, who wouldn’t be covered by either of the arguments given above. But Trump’s EO was so overbroad that I think it’s fair to say that the courts will likely find parts of it unconstitutional.

    • Craw
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      It isn’t. Her own lawyers told her that.
      So she is making a policy objection. The right way to do that is to resign.
      This is quite unlike the Cox firing and Trump was within his rights here. This is how a government of laws works. Sometimes your side loses.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        You’ve got it exactly backwards.

        The Cox firing wasn’t unconstitutional; Nixon had the Article II authority to fire any Justice Department employee. That’s why Richardson and Ruckelshaus resigned rather than refuse to carry it out and be fired.

        Acting AG Yates, OTOH, based her refusal on her good-faith belief that Trump’s order was unconstitutional. (Two federal judges have also found that parties opposing the order on constitutional grounds are likely to succeed on the merits, the standard for enjoining the order’s enforcement.) Accordingly, she acted appropriately in refusing to enforce the order and forcing Trump to fire her.

  16. Hempenstein
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    When asked why he hadn’t sacked J Edgar Hoover, LBJ famously said that he preferred having him inside the tent pissing out rather than the other way around.

    Of course this is not to equate Sally Yates with JEH, but Boss Tw**t may come to wish he’s thought of this aspect.

  17. Rasmo carenna
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I am disgusted too by the language of the White House statement. So classless, so petty, so childish.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      My immediate reaction also.

      I don’t get a sizable percentage of my fellow Americans. They can watch & listen to Trump or Trump admin appointees (like Bannon, Conway, Spicer, etc.) and watch & listen to Obama or Obama admin appointees (like Samantha Powers, comes to mind because I just saw her on The Daily Show) and some how be in favor of the Trumpsters.

      The contrast is so extreme. On one side you have disingenuous, often stupid, often juvenile, mean, selfish, carny / used-car salesmen like character traits very often clearly displayed. On the other side you have well spoken, thoughtful, often decent and compassionate character traits on display.

      I’ve had this problem for a long time, particularly during the Bush Jr administration. Now with the Trump Era I can’t help but begin to think that the explanation is simply that the people who keep siding with indecency are just not very decent people.

      To go cold turkey from Obama representing me to the rest of the world to Trump doing so is just depressing as hell. It is beyond me how even 30 or 40 percent of people in the US can possibly be proud to have Trump representing them.

      • Rasmo carenna
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        I feel your pain. And I am not even American. But yeah, the contrast is just so unbearable between one set of people and the other…

      • Mark R.
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        It is beyond me how even 30 or 40 percent of people in the US can possibly be proud to have Trump representing them.

        A 2011 PEW Forum study on worldwide Christianity found that Evangelical Christianity consisted of 13.1% of the world population and the largest concentration was in the US at 28.9%. So the 30-40% correlates well to the evangelicals in the US. After realizing that, I’m not at all surprised at the large amount of Trump devotees.

        And it can never be overstated: religion poisons everything.

        • darrelle
          Posted January 31, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

          It does seem plausible to me that there is a significant overlap between the two groups.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      The language of it struck me the most too. It’s shockingly unprofessional and hard to imagine it comes from the president of the most powerful country on the planet.

  18. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Trump cannot survive without constantly lashing out. As ridicule kills, a device is needed to bring ridicule on him each time he engages in lashing out. I propose the nickname “Lashing Donald”.

    • Aelfric
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      My wife, noting his mental resemblance to young toddlers and being of a somewhat scatological bent, has taken to calling him “full diaper Donald.”

      • Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        instead of POTUS he should be anagrammed as the POSUS, piece of sh!+ of the US

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    What’s most disgusting about this situation is the White House statement that acting AG Sally Yates somehow “betrayed” the Justice Department by refusing to enforce Trump’s ill-conceived order.

    She did no such thing. She acted in the best traditions of public servants in general, and of Justice Department lawyers specifically, by refusing to defend a law she in good faith believes to be unconstitutional — as she had promised none other than Alabama senator (and Trump attorney-general nominee) Jeff Sessions that she would do during his questioning of her in her recent testimony before the US senate.

    If Sessions is confirmed, I suspect we will soon find out if he’s prepared to hold himself to the same high standards, since Trump will undoubtedly engage in further unconstitutional actions that Sessions will be called on to uphold and defend.

    Strap in for a series of constitutional crises, folks.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Exactly.

    • Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      As I have said to my wife: Trump’s pattern his entire life has been to push everything to and beyond the limit of the law. And when caught, he buys off the officials and settles a gag-order-covered lawsuit.

      Why would we expect anything different now?

      He’s going to violate the law, repeatedly, and we (and the media, especially) need to be standing by to direct the sunshine of exposure on these violations.

  20. Merilee
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Sub

  21. Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Kremlin observers have noted the unusual use of the word “betrayal”.

  22. Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Sally Yates for President, 2020. We will need someone with integrity to fix the mess.

  23. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Trump believes Yates is just another hired hand and they are to be fired. Just like his idiot TV show. No brains, no headaches.

  24. Posted January 31, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I too admire Ms. Yates for resisting President Trump and standing up for her principles. But I think we need to distinguish between Trump’s order re refugees and his order re immigration. The former may indeed be unconstitutional, even if, as Trump claims, it’s only temporary. In the case of immigration, however, he’s merely ordering stricter enforcement of existing laws. Entering the country illegally is a federal crime and until that changes, it’s the feds, not the so-called “sanctuary states,” that have jurisdiction. Trump’s on solid ground there.

  25. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I am sickened, but it’s only 11 days in. There are 1448 days to go, and that’s if Trump stays for only one term.

    Bad news, I’m afraid, for PCC and Americans everywhere. Actually, non-Americans everywhere too. There’s almost a whole extra day (0.97 days, 23 hours and nearly 20 minutes) of Smallhands before you. The additional day gets set back by the leap year rules.
    Inconvenient the way that the rotation of the Earth on it’s axis doesn’t simply relate to it’s motion around the Sun. Someone should pass an Executive Order to correct this obvious error.

  26. Dale Franzwa
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jerry, good news, hot off the presses (er, TV tube). British bookies are giving odds Trump will be out of office within a year. Here’s a chance to recoup all your election betting losses (hey, why not double your money). He’ll either resign or be impeached. You know how prescient those bookies were about Brexit. Here’s the opportunity of a lifetime (you can probably(?) cover all your travel expenses to NZ). Contact your favorite British bookie today (uh, good luck).


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