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Jeff Sessions Once Advised Sally Yates To Do The Thing Trump Just Fired Her For

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's attorney general pick, once told Yates that she should be able to say no to the president if he asks for something she thinks is "unlawful."

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President Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday, hours after she ordered Justice Department lawyers not to defend his refugee and travel ban in court.

J. David Ake / AP

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” Yates wrote in a letter to the department's lawyers.

Hours later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that Yates had been dismissed. The White House then announced that Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia since 2015, would serve as acting attorney general.

However, as one Twitter user observed, Trump's own pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is awaiting confirmation, had once advised Yates to defy a president's orders "if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful."

Amazing. Sally Yates at her confirmation hearing answering her job-ending Q. Look who's asking. Via @charles_gaba

The tweet, showing Sessions' advising Yates to do the very thing Trump just fired her for, has since gone viral.

During Yates' 2015 confirmation hearing for deputy attorney general, Sessions told Yates, "You have to watch out because people will be asking you do things you just need to say no about."

"Do you think the attorney general has the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that's improper?"

Sessions gave an example of then-President Obama nominating Loretta Lynch as the attorney general.

"A lot of people have defended the Lynch nomination, for example, by saying that 'Well, he appoints someone who's going to execute his views. What's wrong with that?' But if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general say no?" Sessions asked Yates.

Yates responded, "Senator, I believe the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has the obligation to follow the law and the constitution and to give their independent legal advice."

Sessions also told Yates that it "shouldn't take you too long to say, 'No, this isn't right'" to the president.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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