Transcript: Sen. John N. Kennedy’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1


Part 1 of 2. Partial transcript of Sen. John N. Kennedy’s (R-Louisiana) Q&A with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee was held on May 8, 2017:

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
…Ms. Yates I want to start with you. You declined to support, to defend President Trump’s executive order because you thought it was unconstitutional, is that correct?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
That’s correct, yes.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
Okay. And you believe that no reasonable argument could be made in its defense? Is that correct?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
Well, I don’t know that I would put it that way, Senator. This was the analysis that we went through – [interrupted]

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
Let me stop you because I’ve got a whole bunch of questions. I just want to understand your thinking from my perspectives.

Did you believe then that there were reasonable arguments that could be made in its defense?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
I believe that any argument that we would have to make in its defense would not be grounded in the truth. Because to make an argument in its defense we would have to argue that the executive order had nothing to do with religion, that it was not done with an intent to discriminate against Muslims, and based on a variety of factors…[interrupted]

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
You’re looking at intent?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
Yes, and I believe that’s the appropriate analysis. And in fact, that’s been born out in several court decisions since that time that that’s the appropriate analysis when you’re doing a constitutional analysis is to look to see what are you trying to accomplish here.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
Suppose instead of an executive order, this has been an act of Congress, would you have refused to defend it?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
If it were the same act, yes. And in fact, the Department of Justice has done that in the past. For example, with DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act when the Department of Justice refused to defend DOMA.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
But that was a political decision was it not?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
Well I wasn’t at main Justice at that time so I can’t speak to that. But that was another example of when DOJ did not defend the constitutionality of a statute.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
But in your opinion, the executive order is unconstitutional.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
I certainly was not convinced that it was constitutional. And given that I wasn’t in the import of this, I couldn’t in good conscience send Department of Justice lawyers in to defend it.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
I want to be sure I understand. Do you believe it’s constitutional or unconstitutional?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
I believed – I was not convinced that it was constitutional. I believed that it was unconstitutional in the sense that there was no way in the world I could send folks in there to argue something that we didn’t believe to be the truth.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
So you believe it’s unconstitutional.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
Yes.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
Okay. I don’t mean to wax two metaphors.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
If I could say, I could understand why you might be frustrated with the language here.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
I’m not frustrated. I’m happy as a clown.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
Here is the reason. Let me give you a little idea of the timing – [interrupted]

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
Okay but let me stop you because I don’t have much time. I have a lot of ground to cover. I don’t mean two wax two metaphors but at what point does the act of Congress or an executive order become unconstitutional?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
Well, it all depends on what the act does.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
No, but I mean.

I can look at a statute and say I think that’s unconstitutional. Does that make it unconstitutional?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
I think the issue that we faced at the Department of Justice is that to defend this order would require lawyers to go in and argue that this has nothing to do with religion – [interrupted]

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
But at what point does a statue or executive order become unconstitutional?

…Let me tell you what I’m getting at and I don’t mean any disrespect, who appointed you to the United States Supreme Court? Isn’t it the court of final jurisdiction that decides what’s unconstitutional or not? In fact, aren’t most acts of Congress presumed to be constitutional?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
They are presumed but they’re not always unconstitutional. And no, of course, I was not on the Supreme Court. And can tell you, Senator, look, we really wrestled over this decision. I personally wrestled over this decision. And it was not one that I took lightly at all. But it was because I took my responsibilities seriously as Acting Attorney General.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Louisiana):
I understand that. I believe you believe what you’re saying. I’m just trying to understand -this is likely to come up in the future.

At what point does an executive order or statute become unconstitutional? When I think it’s unconstitutional? Or you think it’s unconstitutional? Or a court of final jurisdiction says it’s unconstitutional?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates:
I believe that it is the responsibility of the Attorney General, if the president asks him or her to do something that he or she believes is unlawful or unconstitutional, to say no. And that’s what I did.

Spotlight: Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election

Transcript: Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s testimony on Russian interference in the 2016 election

Transcript: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 3

Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 3

Transcript: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. John Cornyn’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. John Cornyn’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin ’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin ’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Ted Cruz’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Ted Cruz’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Ben Sasse’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Ben Sasse’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Chris Coons’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Chris Coons’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. John N. Kennedy’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. John N. Kennedy’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Al Franken’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Al Franken’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Mazie Hirono’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

Transcript: Sen. Mazie Hirono’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 2

Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s second Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election

Transcript: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s second Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election

Transcript: Sen. Chuck Grassley’s second Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election

Transcript: Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s second Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election

Transcript: Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s second Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election

Transcript: Sen. John N. Kennedy’s second Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election

2 Comments on “Transcript: Sen. John N. Kennedy’s Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s second Q&A w/ former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates & DNI James Clapper on Russian interference in the 2016 election | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Spotlight: Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election | What The Folly?!