The Slatest

Sally Yates Implies Trump White House Tried to Keep Her From Reviewing Travel Ban Before It Was Signed

Sally Yates became the acting attorney general after Loretta Lynch left office and was, famously, fired by Donald Trump after she refused to defend his first executive order banning travelers from majority-Muslim countries. Yates testified Monday before a Senate subcommittee, discussing both that incident and the meetings at which she informed the White House that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had been dishonest about the content of his phone calls with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Several Republican members pressed Yates on the subject of the travel ban, suggesting that her refusal to defend it was nothing more than a partisan stunt. One of those Republicans was Ted Cruz, who noted that the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel—which is technically part of the DOJ—had approved the travel ban before it was issued. But in the course of making this point in characteristically smarmy fashion, Cruz got an answer he did not seem to be expecting:

CRUZ: Very brief question. In the over 200 years of the Department of Justice’s history, are you aware of any instance in which the Department of Justice has formally approved the legality of a policy and three days later the attorney general directed the department not to follow that policy and to defy that policy?

YATES: I’m not. But I’m also not aware of a situation where the Office of Legal Counsel was advised not to tell the attorney general about it until after it was over.

Oh snap! It must be said that Yates was speaking in a hypothetical tense and didn’t literally exactly say that Trump’s White House tried to hide this specific order from her. On the other hand, it was widely reported after the first travel ban was implemented that key figures in the State, Homeland Security, and Justice departments had not been consulted before it was issued. And scheming against the attorney general definitely sounds like something that Steve Bannon would have tried to do in those heady early days before the president got jealous of him.

Also, Ted Cruz got served!