The Time Jeff Sessions Told Sally Yates She’d Have to “Say No to the President”

Democratic senators are using the damning clip to oppose his nomination to become the next attorney general.


On Monday, President Donald Trump swiftly moved to fire acting attorney general Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, after she refused to defend the president’s controversial immigration executive order.

Shortly after her ouster, a video segment from Yates’ 2015 confirmation hearing emerged, in which Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)—whose Senate confirmation vote to become the next attorney general is currently underway—advised the then-deputy attorney general nominee that she must be willing to stand up to the president if she was asked to carry out and defend “unlawful” actions.

“You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say ‘no’ about,” Sessions said. “Do you think the Attorney General has the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper?”

“If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?,” he continued.

Yates answered affirmatively, saying she believed the role had an obligation to follow the Constitution and provide “independent legal advice” to the president.

During Sessions’ confirmation vote Tuesday morning, several Democratic senators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), pointed to the 2015 video clip to underscore the hypocrisy exemplified by Trump’s decision to fire her. Both Feinstein and Leahy are voting against Sessions’ nomination, arguing they have no confidence the Alabama senator will follow his own advice and stand up to Trump.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate