The former acting attorney general explained why she wouldn’t defend President Trump’s travel ban during her Harvard Law School commencement on Thursday.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said that defending President Trump’s travel ban would have required the Department of Justice (DOJ), “to advance a pretext, a defense not grounded in truth,” during Harvard’s Law School commencement on Thursday.
President Trump fired Yates over her refusal to defend the executive order, which is currently being blocked by federal courts from being enacted.
Yates explained her decision to Harvard’s Law School graduates, telling them, “I came to the conclusion that defending the constitutionality of the travel ban would require the Department of Justice to argue that the executive order had nothing to do with religion.”
“That it was not intended to disfavor Muslims, despite numerous prior statements by the president and his surrogates regarding his intent to effectuate a Muslim ban, I believed that this would require us to advance a pretext — a defense not grounded in truth,” Yates said. “So I directed the DOJ not to defend the executive order.”
Yates then explained why she didn’t just resign rather than direct the department not to defend the order.
“Indeed, I grappled with that very question over the weekend and during the day on Monday. But I believed then, and believe now, that while resigning would have protected my personal integrity, it would not have protected the integrity of the Department of Justice,” Yates explained.
Yates continued: “The Department of Justice is not just another law firm, and this wasn’t just any legal issue. It was about the core founding principle of religious freedom. And I could not in good conscience send DOJ lawyers into court to advance the argument that the travel ban was unrelated to religion when the evidence of its intent reflected that this was not the case.”
“I didn’t make the decision just within the 72 hours from the time I learned of the ban until the time I issued the directive. That decision was the result of what others had taught me over my entire 27 years with the Justice Department,” Yates concluded.
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