President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, Monday after she instructed Justice Department lawyers to not defend Trump's recent executive order on immigration and refugees.
In a statement announcing Yates' removal, the administration accused Yates of "betraying" the Justice Department. Yates, on the other hand, said in a statement that she didn't view Trump's executive order to be "right," in addition to saying that she wasn't "convinced" that it was lawful.
Yates' actions could have almost been predicted.
Rewind to 2015 when she was under nomination to become then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch's second in command at the Justice Department. During her confirmation hearings, Sessions grilled Yates over what she would do if Lynch or then-President Barack Obama instructed her to do something "improper" or inconsistent with the Constitution or rule of law.
Sessions asked, according to C-SPAN video:
You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say “no” about. Do you think the attorney general has the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? A lot of people have defended the Lynch nomination, for example, by saying, “Well [Obama] appoints somebody who’s going to execute his views. What’s wrong with that?” But if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?
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 added in reply to a follow-up question from Sessions about the duty of top Justice Department lawyers: "I do believe that that's the duty of the attorney general's office: to fairly and impartially evaluate the law and to provide the president and the administration with impartial legal advice."
Fast-forward to January 2017, and now it's Sessions who is answering those types of questions on Capitol Hill. He will likely be the next attorney general in just a matter of weeks.
Meanwhile, Dana Boente was sworn in as acting attorney general late Monday night after Yates' firing. He, like Yates, is an Obama appointee. However, Boente said Monday that during his short tenure as the nation's highest lawyer, he will instruct the Justice Department to defend Trump's executive order.
It should be noted that while most media reports indicate that Yates believed Trump's executive order was not consistent with the law or Constitution, Yates never outright made that claim in her statement. Rather, she made a legalese allusion to make it appear as if that was her opinion.
Watch Session question Yates below: