Sally Yates warns of Trump 'tearing down the legitimacy' of the Justice Department

WASHINGTON — Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said she had something to get off her chest about President Trump at the 2018 Ideas Conference hosted by the Center for American Progress on Tuesday: Don’t ignore his attacks on the rule of law.

“What I worry about is the normalization of so much that is not normal,” said Yates, who was fired by Trump in January 2017 after refusing to comply with his controversial executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“There is a time-honored tradition at the Department of Justice, at least since Watergate, that is nonpartisan,” Yates said. “There is a wall between the Department of Justice and the White House when it comes to criminal investigations and prosecutions.”

Trump has been hammering away at that wall so often and with such ferocity, she said, “nobody’s rolling their eyes anymore.”

“It used to be a big news story that would say, ‘In an unprecedented step, Trump said this,’” Yates explained. “Now it doesn’t even make it through the full 24-hour news cycle because it happens so frequently.”

Sally Yates
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)

Trump’s caustic tweets aimed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller are collectively “tearing down the legitimacy” of the Justice Department, Yates said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., agreed.

“We see this constant onslaught on the rule of law,” Klobuchar said.

Yet just as troubling, Klobuchar said, are Trump’s attacks on a free press.

“You literally have a president in office that can tweet anything he wants every single morning but he doesn’t respect the amendment that allows him to do it,” Klobuchar said.

But looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections and beyond, Klobuchar said progressive candidates should not put their focus entirely on Trump.

“Progressives can do two things at once,” she said. “We can, one, focus on the optimistic economic agenda and what needs to be done there and, secondly, protect our democracy.”

Voters in Minnesota, Klobuchar said, “don’t want to hear about Donald Trump every single minute.”

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