The Time Jeff Sessions Told Sally Yates She’d Have to “Say No to the President”

Democratic senators are using the damning clip to oppose his nomination to become the next attorney general.


On Monday, President Donald Trump swiftly moved to fire acting attorney general Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, after she refused to defend the president’s controversial immigration executive order.

Shortly after her ouster, a video segment from Yates’ 2015 confirmation hearing emerged, in which Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)—whose Senate confirmation vote to become the next attorney general is currently underway—advised the then-deputy attorney general nominee that she must be willing to stand up to the president if she was asked to carry out and defend “unlawful” actions.

“You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say ‘no’ about,” Sessions said. “Do you think the Attorney General has the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper?”

“If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?,” he continued.

Yates answered affirmatively, saying she believed the role had an obligation to follow the Constitution and provide “independent legal advice” to the president.

During Sessions’ confirmation vote Tuesday morning, several Democratic senators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), pointed to the 2015 video clip to underscore the hypocrisy exemplified by Trump’s decision to fire her. Both Feinstein and Leahy are voting against Sessions’ nomination, arguing they have no confidence the Alabama senator will follow his own advice and stand up to Trump.

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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