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Jeff Sessions grilled Sally Yates on constitutional duty during 2015 hearing

Jeff Sessions grilled Sally Yates on constitutional duty during 2015 hearing
Posted at 3:45 AM, Jan 31, 2017

(CNN) -- Well, this is awkward.

Video of Sally Yates' Deputy Attorney General confirmation hearing in 2015 shows Sen. Jeff Sessions -- Trump's pick for the country's top legal position -- grilling her about her responsibility to the then-President, Barack Obama, should he require her to execute "unlawful" views.

"You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things and you need to say no. You think the Attorney General has the responsibility to say no to the President if he asks for something that's improper?" the Alabama senator asks her.



"A lot of people have defended the Lynch nomination, for example by saying 'well, he appoints somebody who's going to execute his views, what's wrong with that?'" he asks, referring to Obama's 2014 nomination of Loretta Lynch to the role of Attorney General.

"But if the views the President wants to execute are unlawful, should the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General say no?"

Yates replies: "Senator, I believe the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the President."

Yates, who until yesterday was Acting Attorney General, was fired after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend Trump's immigration order, which bans travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations and temporarily halts refugee arrivals.

Yates paid the price for falling afoul of the Trump White House.

"(Yates) has betrayed the Department of Justice," the White House statement said.

Constitutionality questioned

"It depends on whose ox is getting gored. You've got the putative Attorney General there basically taunting her saying, 'you make sure you stand up for the Constitution,'" criminal defense lawyer and CNN commentator Mark Geragos said.

"This is not a land that is ruled by men but by law. She does what she's supposed to do and her reward is to be fired... it's silly."

Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was sworn in at 9 p.m. ET, per an administration official. A few hours later, Boente issued a statement rescinding Yates' order, instructing DOJ lawyers to "defend the lawful orders of our President."

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