Sessions had pressed Yates on whether she’d stand up to president

Yates was fired by Trump after refusing to enforce his travel ban executive order.
Yates was fired by Trump after refusing to enforce his travel ban executive order.

Senator Jeff Sessions questioned former acting attorney general Sally Yates at her 2015 confirmation hearing about whether she would comply with unlawful orders from the president.

She said no.

Now, Sessions is expected to step into her job — after Yates was fired for saying she could not defend an executive order issued by Republican President Donald J. Trump.

And Democrats are asking if Sessions would have the same independence.

In the hearing on her confirmation as deputy attorney general, Sessions asked, “If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or deputy attorney general say no?”


Yates responded, “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, an Obama appointee who stepped up to serve as acting attorney general after the departure of Loretta Lynch, was fired by Trump Monday night after she refused to defend in court his controversial executive order on immigration.

“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,” Yates, a career federal prosecutor from Georgia, wrote in a letter to the agency’s attorneys. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

Sessions is expected to be able to win Senate approval, with a final vote as early as Friday. But Democrats say they want more time to question him.

Those questions include whether he could stand up to Trump if he disagreed with him, Bloomberg News reports.

“Many people have doubts about whether Jeff Sessions can be that person, and the full Senate and the American people should at the very least know exactly how independent he plans to be before voting on him,” the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said in a statement Monday night.