Sally Yates’s Rebellion Ends with a Whimper

Sally Yates (Eric Thayer / Getty)
Eric Thayer / Getty

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates has had a whirlwind year as the left’s newest darling. She became an instant political celebrity when she refused to defend President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and travel from terror-prone countries — the so-called “travel ban.”

Trump promptly fired her, which earned her a Senate hearing, a graduation speech at Harvard Law School, and talk about a bright future as a Democratic Party politician.

But Yates’s rebellion ended with a whimper on Monday, as the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down several lower court injunctions and let the third version of Trump’s travel ban stand, for now.

It was the second time in less than two months that the Court had rejected left-wing efforts to have the ban declared unconstitutional based on nothing more than Trump’s campaign rhetoric — a new, dubious standard that the media treated as settled, black-letter law.

Yates told the Senate in May that she was convinced no court would enforce the executive order. And yet not only was the order upheld — in its original form — by one federal court, but it has now also been allowed to stand in its current form by the Supreme Court.

In the time that has elapsed since all the legal wrangling began, the Department of Homeland Security has had months in which to prepare, refine, and apply the new “extreme vetting” standards.

At Harvard Law, Yates told her story again to the graduating class — and admitted that resigning from the Justice Department, rather than defying the president, would have been an option.

“But I believed then, and believe now,” she said, “that while resigning would have protected my personal integrity, it would not have protected the integrity of the Department of Justice,” which was supposed to defend “the core founding principle of religious freedom.”

Tell that to the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Catholic order that the Justice Department fought for years over the Obamacare contraception mandate, even though all the nuns were doing was standing up for religious freedom.

Monday was an important day for Yates in another respect. Byron York of the Washington Examiner connected the dots that led to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI last Friday.

It was Yates who helped launch the initial investigation into Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador, based on the unusual pretext of the Logan Act, which prevents private U.S. citizens from conducting diplomacy.

“Yates went ahead with the questioning of Flynn” in the first days of the Trump administration, York recalled. “And two days after that, Yates, along with an aide, went to the White House to tell counsel Don McGahn that there was a legal problem with the national security adviser.” Flynn’s name had been “unmasked” by a yet-to-be-determined Obama administration official, and the contents of his conversations were illegally leaked to the Washington Post.

Yates may have had nothing to do with the leak, but she had everything to do with trying to push Flynn out of the new administration. York describes her successful efforts as part of a broader endeavor: to use the Logan Act “to entangle the new administration in a criminal investigation as soon as it walked in the door of the White House.”

In the absence of any evidence of Russian “collusion,” that “deep state” attack remains the real scandal.

For all the frenzy around Yates’s rebellion, the media covered Monday’s Supreme Court decision quietly. But Yates may return to the fight. When she does, perhaps the full story of the bureaucracy’s effort to undermine Trump will be known.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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