What Is Sally Yates Doing Now?
'I wouldn't have done anything differently'
Sally Yates was appointed U.S. Deputy Attorney General by former President Barack Obama, on January 10, 2015. After the departure of former AG Loretta Lynch, when President Donald Trump took office, Sally Yates served as acting AG for 10 days, from January 20 to 30, 2017.
Since her departure from the Department of Justice, Yates has appeared with several media outlets and made a number of speeches at educational and governmental institutions.
At an appearance at the Albright Institute for Global Affairs Wellesley College, in January, Yates was described as a "symbol of principled leadership" for standing up to Donald Trump when she "defiantly refused to defend his executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries," as reported by The New York Times.
"I wouldn't have done anything differently," the former AG was quoted by The Hill.
While admitting that she finds the praise that has been bestowed upon her to be "kind and nice," Sally Yates was adamant that she was only doing her "job."
"I think what you would find is that there are a whole lot of people, all across government, who have a similar commitment that I had when I was with the Department of Justice."
Despite a lifelong desire to work in public service and the caustic environment she found herself in during her short tenure as AG, which ultimately led to her departure, Sally Yates continues to encourage young women to aspire for a life of public service.
"I actually happen to think that everybody has an obligation to do some kind of public service. It doesn't have to be working for the government, but some type of public service, sometime in their life," the attorney explained.
Sally Yates at the Albright Institute for Global Affairs Wellesley College
Former AG inspired by level of political engagement
"Can you tell us how we can feel similarly effective and powerful in our daily lives?" Joanne Murray, a director with the Albright Institute, asked Sally Yates. "What I heard from the students, today, was a combination of a yearning and an urgency to do that, with discouragement and a feeling of complete dis-empowerment."
The former AG replied, "I hear that," and made light of a perceptible amount of "angst" among everyday Americans. However, Yates also spoke of a "level of engagement" in politics "like I've never seen before."
After agreeing with Murray that work remains for women, Sally Yates described being at a "critical point." Observing participants in the 2017 women's march, she described the young women as "feeling totally comfortable in their own skin; totally comfortable in who they were, and what they believed in, and their right and obligation to express it."
Yates offered that the situation for women was markedly different when she was younger.
"We've come a long way since then," the attorney said. "They weren't feeling the least bit sheepish."
Murray asked Sally Yates how being a mother has affected her career as a lawyer.
"You know, I wonder if it's being a mother, or maybe it's just being a parent," she responded. "All the time I was practicing as a prosecutor, part of what I would think about would be the world that we're leaving for our children."
What is Sally Yates doing now?
'What's wrong with the president telling the DOJ who they should be prosecuting?'
In October 2017, after a federal judge once again blocked a second Trump "travel ban" that would have stopped 150 million people from a number of counties from visiting the United States, similar to how Sally Yates advised the president that the first would be received by the judiciary, she appeared on MSNBC to speak about it.
"I understand that the judge, there, said that it suffered from some of the same maladies [of the first ban], in terms of what the actual intent was," the former AG answered.
A few days later, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to take "full effect," as reported by The New York Times. More recently, the Supreme Court has "agreed to hear arguments against" the ban, as reported by The Conversation.
Willie Geist asked Yates if a version of President Trump's travel ban will ever be enacted.
"It's hard for me to know," she replied. "I was focused on the first travel ban that was incredibly broad. I'm not sure there are a whole lot of folks out there that would credibly argue, today, that imposing a travel ban on people that have valid green cards, without any kind of procedure, would really pass constitutional muster."
Jon Meacham, executive editor with Random House, asked the former AG what grade she would give the "resiliency of the rule of law" in late 2017.
"I'm very concerned about the state of the rule of law," Sally Yates was direct. "Our whole criminal justice system, and, indeed, a cornerstone of our form of government, is the rule of law — the concept that the laws apply equally to everyone. No one is above the law. Likewise, the law is not used a sword, to go after your political enemies, either."
Through previous presidential administrations, both Democratic and Republican, Sally Yates stated that "a wall" existed between the White House and the Justice Department "when it comes to criminal investigations and prosecutions."
With regard to those who hold a view that because the Justice Department is part of the executive branch of government, "What's wrong with the president telling the DOJ who they should be prosecuting?"
"Well, there's a whole lot wrong with that," Sally Yates said, firmly. "Not only does it impact the rule of law, but it impacts the public confidence in whether or not our criminal justice system is being used as a political tool. We've seen that, unfortunately, over and over again, with this president."
© 2018 Stephen Sinclair