Feb 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sally Yates: Trump used DOJ "as a cudgel against his enemies"

Sally Yates.

Sally Yates. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates accused President Trump of using the Justice Department "as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies" in a Washington Post op-ed Friday.

Why it matters: Yates served in the DOJ under President Obama and stayed on as a holdover as acting attorney general until she was fired less than two weeks into Trump's presidency for refusing to implement the president's travel ban.

  • She testified in 2017 that she warned White House counsel that former national security adviser Michael Flynn misled officials about his discussions with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

What she's saying:

  • "President Trump has attempted to use the Justice Department as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies."
  • "The president has attempted to order up investigations of his perceived political enemies and enlist the department to protect his friends. With every blow, the wall of Justice independence has wobbled a bit more. This week, it teetered on the verge of collapse."
  • On the Justice Department's reversal of its sentencing recommendation for Trump associate Roger Stone, Yates wrote: "This is not how the department is supposed to operate. Back-and-forth between prosecutors and department leadership about a high-profile matter is not itself unusual. But for Justice leadership to order the reversal of a publicly filed sentencing recommendation in a politically sensitive case is unprecedented."
  • She continued: "Regardless of whether the decision to reverse the prosecutors was made before the president tweeted, action in anticipation of the president’s reaction is as dangerous as action in response to it."

The bottom line: "The Justice Department is not a tool of any president to be used for retribution or camouflage. In all of government, the Justice Department uniquely functions in a trusted bond with Americans to dispense justice without fear or favor."

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