Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump's Monday Night Massacre & Sally Yates' Stand For Justice

Ex-acting attorney general Sally Yates 
In a way it seems odd to be ending the month just as the week gets started, but as singer /guitarist Eddie Vedder sang on his song "Rise":

"Such is the passage of time, too fast to fold. Suddenly swallowed by signs, low and behold."

From a political, moral and ethical perspective, the signs coming from the White House these days are indeed something to behold.

Donald Trump's decision to fire the acting attorney general of the United States Sally Q. Yates last night was reminiscent of former President Richard M. Nixon's shocking decision to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on the night of Saturday October 20, 1973 after he issued a subpoena to Nixon to release secret recordings of Oval Office conversations known as the "The Nixon Tapes."

An incident that would go down in history as the Saturday Night Massacre and would eventually lead to Nixon's resignation ten months later on August 9, 1974.

Now at this point it's hard to say if Trump's decision to fire Yates will rock the foundations of Democracy in the same way, but it clearly calls into question what his definition of Democracy will look like for the remainder of his tenure in office.

And it also further cements his growing reputation as a vindictive, reactionary despot who fancies the White House as as platform for authoritarian rule.

An anti-Trump protester in Rhode Island
Yates' decision to publicly defy his executive order to ban Muslims from seven nations from entering the country by ordering Justice Department attorneys not to defend the controversial order against court challenges has already earned her praise from advocates of immigrants rights.

As well as wide swaths of the American public and leading Democratic politicians, including Senator Richard Blumenthal who took to the Senate floor to praise her actions as heroic.

Yates echoed the same concerns of growing numbers of government employees and officials in the Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security.

Career professionals who warn that Trump's ban will actually fuel terrorism, undue years of diplomacy, further divide the globe and put American lives at risk.

But it's important to remember that her courageous defiance of America's paranoid POTUS* isn't the only reason she was fired.

First, let's be honest, we all know Trump was secretly salivating waiting to fire someone simply to show the public another vulgar display of his new powers - like some spoiled kid waiting to go show off his shiny new bike to the other kids.

Secondly, if you recall, back in August Yates announced that the Department of Justice would begin to phase out the use of private prisons to hold federal prisoners after a DOJ report concluded that the web of for-profit prisons in the United States was more dangerous, more costly and far less efficient than correctional facilities run by the Bureau of Prisons.

So there's little question that Yates was already a target for rigidly conservative Republicans opposed to the idea of prison reform and addressing mass incarceration in America - even though such reforms have clear bipartisan support in Congress.

As to who actually came up with the idea for the Muslim ban entry, as Betsy Woodruff shrewdly observed in a Daily Beast article last Saturday, current Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller was also Sessions' long-time communications director on the Hill before joining the Trump campaign.

Muslim ban fans Stephen Miller & Jeff Sessions
As Woodruff notes, Sessions and Miller were almost legendary among Capitol Hill journalists for actively promoting "research and talking points designed to make Americans afraid of refugees."

According to her Daily Beast article, when she arrived in Washington to worked the Hill as a reporter covering Congress back in 2013, Miller sent out an almost constant stream of press releases via email that were fodder for anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hysteria.

Woodruff recalled that Miller's "emails went to my Gmail and kept coming for years - hundreds and hundreds of them... There were just so many of them, at all hours of the day, and they never stopped. Some were lengthy diatribes; some were detailed, homemade charts; some were one-liners."

So a senior White House advisors and his ex-boss, the nominee for attorney general, are in essence two of the major architects of Trump's Muslim ban - imagine what it's going to be like if and when Sessions is confirmed as attorney general.

Ironically, as Alan Pyke observed in an article for ThinkProgress.org this morning, two years ago when Sessions was questioning Sally Yates during her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee he actually encouraged her to use her authority to say no to the president if and when it was a case of upholding the law of the land.

Sessions is literally on tape encouraging Yates to do exactly what Trump just fired her for.

So I guess from Jeff Sessions' perspective, a deputy attorney general has a duty to stand up and say no to a president if an executive order violates the Constitution - depending on the skin color or political party of the president in question.

Situational ethics personified.

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