Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates accused President Trump today of attempting to use the criminal justice system “as a political tool,” and charged that whether the executive has subverted the rule of law is “not for lack of trying on his part.”
Yates, the deputy attorney general who filled the top post for 10 days before being fired by Trump for not defending the travel ban that she saw as unconstitutional, was to give the keynote address today to the National Law Enforcement Summit on Crime in 2017.
On Tuesday, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland blocked the Trump administration’s third incarnation of travel restrictions from countries that DHS said did not meet certain baselines security measures for travelers coming to the U.S.
Yates told MSNBC this morning that the first travel ban, which led to her dismissal, “was incredibly broad,” and “I’m not sure there are a whole lot of folks out there that would credibly argue today that imposing a travel ban on people who have valid green cards without any kind of procedure would really pass constitutional muster.”
“Now, I know there’s been a lot more work on this. There’s a lot more of a national security basis that’s laid out in this travel ban. And there’s actually been a process now that did not exist for the first travel ban and actually consulting with national security agencies,” she said. “So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see when I assume travel ban three ultimately makes its way to the Supreme Court as well.”
Yates said she’s “very concerned about the state of the rule of law” and “that the law is not used as a sword to go after your political enemies.”
Still, she said, “Our institutions are holding. And there are career men and women at the Department of Justice. In fact, the vast majority of folks at DOJ are career prosecutors and career lawyers. And they’re holding in this. And — so the issue is not whether the rule of law has actually been subverted, but whether the president has attempted to do that. You know, it’s not for lack of trying on his part.”
She cautioned that it’s “important from a public confidence standpoint” that people not see the president
“attempting to use DOJ as a tool,” as “that really undermines the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system, whether he is ultimately successful in that or not.”
Yates said she wouldn’t “be laying odds” on whether special counsel Robert Mueller would bring charges in his investigation into potential collusion or obstruction by the Trump camp. “I have tremendous confidence in Bob Mueller. He is the consummate professional,” she said. “And if anybody can get to the bottom of this, he can. And I think I’m just going to stay out of the way so he can do his job.”