Sally Yates

Last updated on 6 August 2017

Sally Caroline Yates (née Quillian; born August 20, 1960) is an American lawyer. She served as a United States Attorney and later United States Deputy Attorney General, having been appointed to both positions by President Barack Obama.

Following the inauguration of Donald Trump and the departure of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Yates served as Acting Attorney General from January 20, 2017, until being dismissed by President Trump on January 30, 2017, following her instruction to the Justice Department not to defend Trump's immigration-related executive order in court.[1][2]

Sally Q. Yates.jpg
Sally Q. Yates.jpg

Early life and education

Yates was born in Atlanta to J. Kelley Quillian, an attorney and judge who served as a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals between 1966 and 1984, and Xara Terrell Quillian.[3] Her grandmother had been one of the first women admitted to the Georgia Bar; however, she was not hired as an attorney, instead working as a legal secretary for Yates's grandfather.[4]

Yates attended the University of Georgia, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in 1982. In 1986, she earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Georgia School of Law, graduating magna cum laude. While in law school, Yates served as the executive editor of the Georgia Law Review.[5][6]

Career

In 1986, Yates was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia.[7] From 1986 to 1989, Yates was an associate at the law firm King & Spalding in Atlanta, specializing in commercial litigation.[7] In 1989, she was hired as Assistant U.S. Attorney by Bob Barr for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.[8] Early in her career at the Department of Justice, Yates prosecuted a variety of types of cases including white-collar fraud and political corruption.[6] In 1994, she became Chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section. She was the lead prosecutor in the case of Eric Rudolph, who committed the Centennial Olympic Park bombing,[9] a terrorist convicted for a series of anti-abortion and anti-gay bombings across the southern United States between 1996 and 1998, which killed two people and injured over 120 others.[10] She rose to First Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2002 and to Acting U.S. Attorney in 2004. In the U.S. Attorney's office she held leadership positions under both Republican and Democratic administrations.[11]

President Barack Obama nominated Yates to be U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia. She was confirmed by the Senate on March 10, 2010.[8] Yates was the first woman to hold that position in the Northern District of Georgia.[6] During her time as a U.S. Attorney, Yates was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as Vice Chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee.[8]

Deputy Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was on hand to address the audience.jpg
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates

On May 13, 2015, the United States Senate voted 84–12 (4 not voting) to confirm Yates as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, the second-highest-ranking position in the Justice Department;[12][13] during her confirmation hearing, when questioned by Senator Jeff Sessions if she would disobey a president's unlawful orders, she responded that she would have an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give an independent legal advice to the president.[14] She served under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who took office shortly before Yates's confirmation.[6][15]

Yates questioned by Senator Sessions at her confirmation hearing[16]

As Deputy Attorney General, Yates was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Justice Department, which included approximately 113,000 employees. In 2015, she authored the policy, known as the "Yates memo", prioritizing the prosecution of executives for corporate crimes.[17][18] During the final days of the Obama administration, she oversaw the review of 16,000 petitions for executive clemency, making recommendations to the President.[19]

Acting United States Attorney General

In January 2017, according to a Justice Department spokesman, Yates accepted a request from the incoming Trump administration to serve as Acting Attorney General, beginning on January 20, 2017, and until the successor for Attorney General Lynch would be confirmed by the United States Senate.[20]

In late January, Yates warned the Trump administration that National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn had not been truthful about his contacts with Russia related to sanctions and that he was vulnerable to blackmail by Russian intelligence. The Washington Post publicly reported Yates's warning on February 13, 2017, and within hours Flynn resigned.[21][22]

On January 30, 2017, Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump's executive order on travel and immigration, writing in a letter to DOJ staff:

At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities of the Department of Justice, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful...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. For as long as I am the acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of th[is] executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.[23][24][25]

In response to her decision not to defend the order, former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted that he trusted her judgment.[26]

Letter-From-Sally-Yates.pdf
Letter from Sally Yates explaining her view of Executive Order 13769

Later that day, via hand-delivered letter, she was dismissed by the Trump administration and replaced with Dana Boente, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.[27][17] A White House statement claimed that Yates had "betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel."[28]

Reactions to dismissal

Sally Yates Firing Press Release.png
White House Press Release about dismissal

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Yates's actions "a profile in courage. It was a brave act and a right act", while Rep. John Conyers criticized the decision to fire her: "If dedicated government officials deem [Trump's] directives to be unlawful and unconstitutional, he will simply fire them as if government is a reality show."[29]

Law professor Jonathan Adler said, however, that "Yates did not claim she was convinced the order was unlawful, but only that it was not 'wise or just'" and that he was "not aware of any instance in which the Justice Department has refused to defend a presumptively lawful executive action on this basis". Adler argued that she should have resigned and publicly stated her reasons for doing so.[30] It was reported that Yates considered and opted not to resign because she did not want to leave her successor facing the same question.[2][31]

The editors of National Review said her defiance of the executive order was "inappropriate", since Yates was unelected and "every official in the Justice Department knows, if one disagrees with the law one is called upon to apply, or the policy one is bound to enforce, one is free to resign".[32]

The New York Times and others drew comparisons to U.S. President Richard Nixon's dismissal of special prosecutor Archibald Cox in the Saturday Night Massacre and "some cable networks"[33] began calling Yates's dismissal the "Monday Night Massacre".[33][34][35] Watergate investigative journalist Carl Bernstein, however, speaking on CNN, rejected the comparison. "There's a big difference, because the Saturday Night Massacre was really about firing the attorney general when Nixon was the target of an investigation and was actively obstructing justice", he said. "I think the president is within his rights here to fire the attorney general, that he has that ability."[36]

Following Yates's dismissal, Representative Jackie Speier nominated her for the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.[37] Georgia State Senator Elena Parent introduced a resolution commending Yates. Democratic Party operatives in Georgia began recruiting Yates to run for Governor of Georgia in the 2018 election.[38]

Saying "President Trump’s actions appear aimed at destroying the fundamental independence of the Justice Department" in a New York Times editorial, Yates expressed concerns about the future of the Department saying, "The very foundation of our justice system — the rule of law — depends on it [thus] its investigations and prosecutions must be conducted free from any political interference or influence."[39]

Testifying before congressional committees

House Intelligence Committee

In March 2017, Yates was invited by the House Intelligence Committee to testify before Congress at a public hearing as part of the committee's "bipartisan, ongoing investigation into the Russian active measures campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. election".[40]

Later the same month, however, The Washington Post published documents indicating that the Trump administration had sought to block her from testifying, including letters from the Justice Department to Yates indicating that the administration considers her possible testimony on the ouster of Flynn to be barred by the presidential communications privilege or deliberative process privilege.[41]

The public hearing at which Yates had been set to testify was canceled by Chairman Devin Nunes, who said through his spokesperson that neither he nor anyone else in the committee had discussed Yates's testimony with the White House.[42] White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called The Washington Post story "false"; said that "the White House has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying" and that the White House had given its tacit consent; and added "I hope she testifies."[43][42]

Sally Q Yates testifying.png
Sally Q Yates testifying.png

Senate Judiciary Committee

On May 8, 2017, Yates and James Clapper testified for three hours before the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism over the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.[44] Yates said the FBI interviewed then-National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn on January 24, 2017. Because of that interview she made an "urgent" request to meet with White House Counsel Don McGahn.[45] She met with him on January 26 and again on January 27.[46] She informed McGahn that Flynn was "compromised" and possibly open to blackmail by the Russians. As previously reported, she told McGahn that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials about the nature of his conversation with the Russian ambassador.[47] She said Flynn's "underlying conduct", which she could not describe due to classification, "was problematic in and of itself," adding "(i)t was a whole lot more than one White House official lying to another."[46][45]

Personal life

Yates's husband, Comer Yates, is a school administrator who in 1996 unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat.[48][49]

Honors

In January 2016, Yates received Emory University School of Law's Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) Inspiration Award.[50] Following Yates's dismissal as Acting Attorney General, Representative Jackie Speier nominated her for the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, and Georgia State Senator Elena Parent introduced a resolution commending Yates.[37][38] In April 2017, Yates received the Mary Church Terrell Freedom and Justice Award during the Detroit NAACP's 62nd Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner.[51][52]

References

  1. ^ Evan Perez and Jeremy Diamond. "Trump fires acting AG after she declines to defend travel ban". CNN.
  2. ^ a b Landler, Mark; Shear, Michael D.; Apuzz, Matt; Lichtblau, Eric (January 30, 2017). "Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Defied Him". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  3. ^ "J. Kelley Quillian, 1966–1984 Chief Judge: 1981–1982". Georgia Court of Appeals. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  4. ^ Clifford, Catherine (January 31, 2017). "How Sally Yates' life and career formed the principles that just got her fired". CNBC. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  5. ^ Bill, David (December 23, 2014). "UGA law graduate Sally Yates nominated for U.S. deputy attorney general". UGA Today.
  6. ^ a b c d Watkins, Eli (January 30, 2017). "Who is Sally Yates?". CNN. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Questionnaire for Non-Judicial Nominees: Sally Quillian Yates, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary (2015).
  8. ^ a b c Jeffries, Fran (December 21, 2014). "Report: Sally Yates is Obama's pick for deputy attorney general". Atlanta Journal Constitution.
  9. ^ Horwitz, Sari (December 21, 2014). "Sally Yates said to be Obama's nominee for Justice Department's second in command". Washington Post.
  10. ^ "#477: 10-14-98 Eric Rudolph Charged in Centennial Olympic Park Bombing". www.justice.gov. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  11. ^ Stockman, Rachel (January 31, 2017). "Who Is Sally Yates? Some Republicans Once Called Her 'Hero' Before She Defied Trump's Order". Fox News. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  12. ^ "Senate Roll Call Vote #177, 114th Congress - 1st Session: "On the Nomination of Sally Quillian Yates, of Georgia, to be Deputy Attorney General"". United States Senate Recorded Votes. May 13, 2015.
  13. ^ Horwitz, Sari (May 17, 2015). "New deputy attorney general: 'We're not the Department of Prosecutions'". Washington Post. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  14. ^ Plumer, Brad (January 31, 2017). "Watch: Jeff Sessions tells Sally Yates to be ready to stand up to the president — in 2015". Vox. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  15. ^ "Loretta Lynch Is Sworn In as Attorney General". New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  16. ^ "Senator Sessions Advising Sally Yates to Disobey Improper Presidential Orders". C-SPAN.org. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Who is Sally Yates? Meet the acting attorney general Trump fired for 'betraying' the Justice Department". Washington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  18. ^ "Yates memo", lw.com; accessed February 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "Obama to commute hundreds of federal drug sentences in final grants of clemency". Washington Post.
  20. ^ Gerstein, Josh (January 17, 2017). "Trump will allow U.S. attorneys to stay past Friday". Politico. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  21. ^ CNN, Pamela Brown and Eli Watkins. "White House was warned Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia". CNN. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  22. ^ Entous, Adam; Nakashima, Ellen; Rucker, Philip (February 13, 2017). "Justice Department warned White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, officials say". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  23. ^ "Letter From Sally Yates". January 30, 2017 – via NYTimes.com.
  24. ^ Apuzzo, Mark Landler, Matt; Lichtblau, Eric (January 30, 2017). "Trump Fires Acting Attorney General" – via NYTimes.com.
  25. ^ "Acting Attorney General declares Justice Department won't defend Trump's immigration order". Washington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  26. ^ "Trump fires acting attorney general in rift over immigration order". USA TODAY. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  27. ^ "Trump fires acting Attorney General who defied him on immigration". chicago.suntimes.com. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  28. ^ "Trump fires Justice Department lawyer Sally Yates over immigration order". Financial Review. January 31, 2017.
  29. ^ Gerstein, Josh (January 30, 2017). "Trump fires defiant acting attorney general". POLITICO. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  30. ^ Adler, Jonathan (January 30, 2017). "Acting attorney general orders Justice Department attorneys not to defend immigration executive order [UPDATED]". Washington Post.
  31. ^ Apuzzo, Matt (January 31, 2017). "Trump's Talk About Muslims Led Acting Attorney General to Defy Ban". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  32. ^ The Editors (January 30, 2017). "Why Yates Had to Go". National Review. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  33. ^ a b Ben Jacobs (January 30, 2017). "Monday night massacre?". The Guardian. Already commentators are comparing Sally Yates's firing to the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of 1973. However, what some cable networks are calling "the Monday night massacre" doesn't quite measure up to that notorious night in the Nixon administration.
  34. ^ Landler, Mark; Shear, Michael D.; Apuzz, Matt; Lichtblau, Eric (January 30, 2017). "Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Defied Him". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 30, 2017. The decision by the acting attorney general is a remarkable rebuke by a government official to a sitting president that recalls the dramatic "Saturday Night Massacre" in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusing to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case.
  35. ^ Roy, Jessica (January 30, 2017). "Why people are calling the acting attorney general's firing the 'Monday Night Massacre'". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  36. ^ Zelizer, Julian (January 31, 2017). "Monday night massacre is a wake-up call to Senate Democrats". CNN. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  37. ^ a b Editor, Jenna Amatulli Trends; Post, The Huffington (January 31, 2017). "Sally Yates Has Been Nominated For JFK Profile In Courage Award". Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  38. ^ a b Quigley, Aidan (February 17, 2017). "Georgia Democrats try to lure Sally Yates into governor's race". Politico. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  39. ^ Yates, Sally. "Sally Yates: Protect the Justice Department From President Trump". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  40. ^ Devlin Barrett & Adam Entous, Read the letters on Sally Yates's potential congressional testimony on Russia, The Washington Post (March 28, 2017):
  41. ^ Devlin Barrett & Adam Entous, Trump administration sought to block Sally Yates from testifying to Congress on Russia, The Washington Post (March 28, 2017).
  42. ^ a b Aruna Viswanatha, Trump Administration Discouraged Sally Yates Testimony: Former acting attorney general's public hearing about Russia was canceled, The Wall Street Journal (March 28, 2017).
  43. ^ Reid, Paula (March 28, 2017). "Former acting AG Sally Yates asked DOJ if she could testify at Russia hearing". CBS News. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  44. ^ Rosenberg, Matthew (8 May 2017). "6 Takeaways From Monday’s Senate Hearing on Russia". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  45. ^ a b King, Michael (May 8, 2017). "Sally Yates warned White House Michael Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail". WXIA. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  46. ^ a b Borger, Julian (May 8, 2017). "Mike Flynn at risk of Russian blackmail, Sally Yates warned White House". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  47. ^ "Yates says Flynn could have been ‘blackmailed,’ Clapper knocks collusion narrative". Fox News. May 8, 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  48. ^ Bluestein, Greg. "Trump fires Sally Yates, the latest Georgian to defy him". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  49. ^ Grossman, Andrew; Barrett, Devlin (December 21, 2014). "Obama to Nominate Atlanta U.S. Attorney Yates to No. 2 Justice Department Job". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved January 31, 2017. (Subscription required (help)).
  50. ^ Greer, A. Kenyatta. "Inspiration Awards honored student, community leaders for public service". Emory Law News Center. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  51. ^ NAACP, DETROIT BRANCH. "U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to Serve As Keynote Speaker for 62nd Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner". Detroit NAACP. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  52. ^ Dixon, Alisha. "Detroit NAACP announces honorees and keynote speaker for the 62nd NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner". Michigan Chronicle. Retrieved May 12, 2017.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
David Nahmias
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia
2010–2015
Succeeded by
John A. Horn
Preceded by
James Cole
United States Deputy Attorney General
2015–2017
Succeeded by
Rod J. Rosenstein
Preceded by
Loretta Lynch
United States Attorney General
Acting

2017
Succeeded by
Dana Boente
Acting

Content from Wikipedia