Last night the God-King fired the Acting Attorney General and replaced the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The purge has begun…. (More)

“At present I am not convinced … that the executive order is lawful”

So wrote Acting Attorney General Sally Yates in a public statement last night:

“At present I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with [my] responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” Yates wrote on Monday night. “Consequently, for 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.”

Lawfare’s Jack Goldsmith found Yates’ statement unconvincing:

I have not yet examined the EO with sufficient care to determine for myself its legality. The EO was obviously issued in haste, without the usual procedural or substantive review within the Executive branch, and without thinking through its consequences. At a minimum, and entirely independent of its legality, the issuance of the EO was deeply imprudent. I know that many people who find the Trump EO abhorrent are cheering wildly for Yates. Nonetheless, the reasons that Yates gave in her carefully worded letter for not defending the EO in court are extraordinarily weak, in my opinion.
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Yates is obviously in an extraordinarily difficult position as Acting Attorney General for a President whose policy goals she does not share. She is clearly repulsed by the EO, and wants no part in its enforcement. (One of the many elements of poor governance by the Trump administration was to issue the controversial and poorly thought-through EO when Barack Obama’s Deputy Attorney General is serving as Acting Attorney General.) But if Yates feels this way, she should have resigned (though if Yates goes, there may be no statutory officer in DOJ who can approve FISA orders.) Instead, she wrote a letter that appears to depart sharply from the usual criteria that an Attorney General would apply in deciding whether to defend an EO in court. As such, the letter seems like an act of insubordination that invites the President to fire her. Which he did.

I think Goldsmith dismisses too easily the Attorney General’s constitutional duty to advice the president on constitutional issues. He says Yates should have remonstrated against the order before the God-King signed it. But we have no evidence that the God-King asked for her input, nor that he would have entertained any objection. Most likely, Yates learned about the order in the same way everyone else outside the God-King’s circle did … through the media, once the order was released.

It’s more than a bit authoritarian to argue that her only options at that point were to quietly resign, or surrender her conscience and defend a policy she believes is not only unwise but also possibly unconstitutional. I’m sure she knew she would be fired, and probably soon would have been regardless, as Sen. Jeff Sessions voted against her confirmation in 2015. By speaking out as she did, she ensured that her firing spotlighted to a constitutional question … rather than being shrugged off as merely a partisan changing of the guard.

“Soulless globalism”

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa suggest that some of the God-King’s early actions have been guided by Sessions’ hardline views:

In jagged black strokes, President Trump’s signature was scribbled onto a catalogue of executive orders over the past 10 days that translated the hard-line promises of his campaign into the policies of his government.

The directives bore Trump’s name, but another man’s fingerprints were also on nearly all of them: Jeff Sessions.

The early days of the Trump presidency have rushed a nationalist agenda long on the fringes of American life into action – and Sessions, the quiet Alabam­ian who long cultivated those ideas as a Senate backbencher, has become a singular power in this new Washington.

Sessions’s ideology is driven by a visceral aversion to what he calls “soulless globalism,” a term used on the extreme right to convey a perceived threat to the United States from free trade, international alliances and the immigration of nonwhites.

Rucker and Costa quote sources who say Sessions’ role will be similar to that of Attorney General John Mitchell to President Richard Nixon. We all know how that ended….

“Honored with an award last year for his work deporting illegal immigrants”

Last night the God-King also replaced the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

President Trump has appointed Thomas D. Homan as the new acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said in a statement Monday night.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said that Daniel H. Ragsdale, the acting director, will continue to serve as the deputy director of ICE.

The move was announced not long after Trump fired acting attorney general Sally Yates, and was met by chatter on social media suggesting that Ragsdale was fired. Gillian Christensen, the Homeland Security spokeswoman, said that Ragsdale was not dismissed from the agency and will instead remain in deputy director role he had served since May 2012. There also was no immediate indication he held any views that were counter to the president’s.

But we can guess that Homan shares the God-King’s agenda:

Homan, who has 30 years of immigration enforcement experience, had worked since 2013 as the executive associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations. He was honored with an award last year for his work deporting illegal immigrants.

Squirrels like to go out on limbs, so I will. I think this move was about installing someone who will tell airport security workers to disregard court orders and obey the God-King’s mandates.

I also expect we’ll see the purge expand over the coming days, as the God-King tries to dismiss the Foreign Service officers who signed the letter of dissent, and anyone else who resists his diktats. The question is whether the courts will push back – both on his orders and when he oversteps civil service laws – and whether he’ll start dismissing judges who try to block him.

That truly would be a constitutional crisis … and I think that’s exactly what the God-King wants.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Good day and good nuts