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Trump firing of Sally Yates fuels Senate Dems’ opposition to Jeff Sessions

Senate Democrats doubled down on their opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, highlighting the need for independence in the office by pointing to President Trump’s Monday night dismissal of the acting attorney general.

Praising the actions of acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, who Monday night defiantly announced her refusal to defend in court the president’s executive order banning refugees and travelers from some Muslim countries, Democrats questioned whether Mr. Sessions could be counted on to act independently of the president when warranted. Within hours of Ms. Yates’ announcement, Mr. Trump fired her, referring to her actions as a betrayal of the Justice Department.

“What we saw last night demonstrates what is at stake with this nomination,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, speaking about Ms. Yates’ actions on Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

The committee is set to vote on the nomination Tuesday.

“We are being asked to vote on a nominee that will have to stand up to a president who is clearly willing to ignore the law and even issue orders that are in violation of the constitution,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The California Democrat said Ms. Yates’ actions “took guts.”

“That is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do,” she said. “I have no confidence that Senator Sessions will do that.”

The order, signed Friday, indefinitely halts the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. and temporarily bars travel to the U.S. by nearly all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

Citing Mr. Sessions early and fervent support of Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, and reports indicating he has played a key role in advising the the president on his executive orders, Mrs. Feinstein said she would not support his nomination for attorney general.

Republicans characterized the dissent as Democrats still being bitter over Mr. Trump’s win and sought to separate Mr. Sessions’ nomination from the controversy churned up over the president’s executive orders.

“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t lose the election and expect the government to represent your view of what we should be doing,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “The question is, is he qualified? Is he a decent honorable man? He is every bit as qualified and every bit as decent as Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said before Tuesday’s vote that contrary to recent reports, Mr. Sessions was not involved in the drafting of the president’s executive orders.

“It’s not clear to me why it would be a problem even if he had been involved,” Mr. Grassley said. “But the fact of the matter is he wasn’t.”

The Iowa Republican said he had faith Mr. Sessions would enforce the laws of the United States and act independently of the president.

“Everyone on this Committee — Republican and Democrat — knows Senator Sessions to be a man of integrity and a man of his word,” Mr. Grassley said. “Because we know him to be a man of his word, we know that he will uphold and enforce all laws, equally, without regard to person, as he pledged.”

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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