Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein have to laugh every time the media tries to turn something into a replay of an event from the Nixon era. Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she said she would not enforce the travel ban executive order he signed.
Naturally, the howling by many in the mainstream press along with Democrats was at a super high pitch. Glass was literally breaking.
They started calling it the ‘Monday Night Massacre’ comparing it to the “Saturday Night Massacre’ during the Watergate scandal when Richard Nixon order his Attorney General, Elliot Richardson to fire Watergate independent prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned. Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus also refused, and he also resigned.
The mainstream media attempted to conflate the two, saying Donald Trump fired Sally Yates despite the fact she was refusing to enforce an “unconstitutional” and “unlawful” executive order.
The part they missed is Yates saying the order was unconstitutional or illegal in her letter to top lawyers at the Justice Department. They missed it because she never said it.
She did say she was not “convinced” the executive order is lawful, but that is not sufficient for the Attorney General to refuse to do her job. The real problem with her letter is, she criticized the policy as not being “wise or just.” Alan Dershowitz explains:
She also referred to its possibly being unconstitutional and unlawful. Had she stuck to the latter two criteria she would have been on more solid ground, although perhaps wrong on the merits. But by interjecting issues of policy and directing the Justice Department not to defend any aspect of the order, she overstepped her bounds.
An attorney general, like any citizen, has the right to disagree with a presidential order, but unless it is clear that the order is unlawful, she has no authority to order the Justice Department to refuse to enforce it. This order is multifaceted and complex. It raises serious constitutional and legal issues that deserved nuanced and calibrated consideration from the nation’s highest law officer.
Dershowitz is wrong in that she referred to it possibly being unconstitutional, but the rest of what he says is critical. He also says:
There are significant differences between the constitutional status of green card holders on the one hand, and potential visitors from another country who are seeking visas. Moreover, there are statutory issues in addition to constitutional ones. A blanket order to refuse to defend any part of the statute is overkill. If she strongly disagreed with the policies underlying the order, she should have resigned in protest, and left it to others within the Justice Department to defend those parts of the order that are legally defensible.
I, too, disagree, with the policy underlying the order, but I don’t immediately assume that any policy with which I disagree is automatically unconstitutional or unlawful.
Dan Rather is out there blathering about the media, proclaiming from up on high how it must be “vigilant” with the Trump administration. I agree. The media should do that with any administration.
Unfortunately, they are always making stuff up or engaging in the laziest and sloppiest of reporting. As such, their credibility goes out the window, and when they finally do hit on something, people are going to shrug.