Backlash to executive order gets attorney general dismissed
By Arthur H. Garrison
President Trump issued an executive order to address the use of a visa system used by refugees from the Syrian civil war on Jan. 27. The backdrop of the order was his election statement on Dec. 7, 2015 in which he called for “A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Trump’s executive order called “to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals…I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from [Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran] would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days…I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined…that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”
During the following two days, more than one hundred visa-holding refugees, not to mention some legal permanent residents (holders of green cards) were prevented from entering the United States at airports and others were sent back to the country of their origin. Massive demonstrations in the major airports of the United States occurred. The political firestorm was compounded on the following Monday when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a career federal Justice Department lawyer, issued a letter.
She said, “As long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.” Because she was not convinced the executive order was lawful or that the “policy choice embodied in [the] Executive Order is wise or just.”
Trump had a letter sent to her that night stating that she is fired.
The White House issued a press release within an hour of her dismissal. It stated, “Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved both in form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel. Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration. It is time to get serious about protecting our country.”
Here are some simple truths. Elections have consequences and America elected a reality TV star who made millions of dollars on a show in which its sole objective was to have Donald Trump say to someone, “you’re fired.”
America elected a man who ran a campaign that was built on the premise that in America, the problem was not that the government was too big, but that stupid people who did not know how to negotiate or get things done were running it.
This “Monday Night Massacre” at the Justice Department is a harbinger of what is to come.
The Attorney General represents the rule of law and government subservience to it within the Executive Branch of government. To fire an Attorney General because she disagrees with the legality of an executive order is no small matter.
What separates the United States from some two-bit banana republic is that the law and Executive Branch legal institutions are more important than any one person sitting in the White House. The law and the systems of legal administration are not to be shaken up, but are to be honored as the system that makes government subservient to the rule of law.
For more decades than Trump has been alive, the legal process of government involving a major presidential executive order is that it could not be issued without the Attorney General giving legal approval or at least commentary prior to publication. More importantly, the opinion of the Attorney General that the order could not be legally defended in court would result in the crafting of adjustments to the order to meet the general’s concerns, not the issuance of a dismissal letter.
The Trump Administration found no problem in issuing the order without having it approved by the Attorney General or even seen by his newly appointed Secretary of Homeland Security prior to its issuance. Trump ran for the office like a bull in a china shop with the promise to break the china and shake up the system of government in Washington.
Consider that Trump issued an order elevating a political advisor to permanent seat status on the executive committee of the National Security Council while removing the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from permanent member status of that committee to subject to invitation status.
The systematic shake ups of Executive Branch rule of law institutions and the ignoring and isolation of national intelligence career civil service officials is detrimental to a Republic, but on Election Day, Trump voters did not consider or care about it, nor do they care about it now. To them, Trump is only shaking up self-entitled bureaucrats. His voters prevailed and they are getting what they want. Again, elections have consequences.