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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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