The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Acting Attorney Generals Can’t Overrule Presidents on Enforcement of Legal Orders.

Acting Attorney Generals Can’t Overrule Presidents on Enforcement of Legal Orders.

The editors sum it up:

Like most Democrats, [now-fired Acting Attorney General Sally] Yates objects to the president’s executive order. Fair enough. But she is not a political operative, she was a Justice Department official — the highest such official. If her opposition to the president’s policy was as deeply held as she says, her choice was clear: enforce the president’s policy or quit.

Instead, she chose insubordination: Knowing she would be out the moment Senator Sessions is confirmed, she announced on Monday night that the Justice Department would not enforce the president’s order. She did not issue this statement on the grounds that the order is illegal. She declined to take a definitive position on that question. She rested her decision, rather, on her disagreement with the justice of the order. Now, she’ll be a left-wing hero, influential beyond her heretofore status as a nameless bureaucrat. But she had to go.

That’s what struck me about Yates’ letter. She says the executive order is not “lawful” but never specifies what law it breaks. That’s the sort of thing you would expect the attorney general of the United States to mention.

In fact, as far as the U.S. Department of Justice was concerned, Trump’s order was perfectly legal:

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed the order and signed off on its legality. But Ms. Yates and her staff lawyers believed that the department had to consider the intent of the order, which she said appeared designed to single out people based on religion.

I know that Constitutional rights don’t appeal to non-citizens, but I’m surprised Yates didn’t even try to argue that the executive order violates the equal protection clause by implementing a religious test. The fact that she didn’t lay out any legal or Constitutional argument makes me, a layman, suspect there wasn’t a convincing legal or Constitutional argument to make.

Instead, she wrote, “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities.” So she doesn’t think the policy is right? Boy, that sounds subjective. Good thing every single lawyer in the Obama administration’s DOJ believed that it was morally correct to enforce federal marijuana statutes in states that had legalized medical marijuana.

The ongoing controversy generated another good what-the-heck moment, as it appears some Hill staffers helped put together the language of the executive order and never got around to telling their bosses what the White House was working on:

Senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee helped Donald Trump’s top aides draft the executive order curbing immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, but the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed, according to multiple sources involved in the process.

Kathryn Rexrode, the House Judiciary Committee’s communications director, declined to comment about the aides’ work. A Judiciary Committee aide said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was not “consulted by the administration on the executive order.”

The work of the committee aides began during the transition period after the election and before Donald Trump was sworn in. The staffers signed nondisclosure agreements, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Trump’s transition operation forced its staff to sign these agreements, but it would be unusual to extend that requirement to congressional employees. Rexrode declined to comment on the nondisclosure pacts.

Gonna be some heated arguments in Goodlatte’s office this morning, huh? “Hey, does anybody else in this office have any secret outside projects they forgot to mention?”

From Mike Rowe to Deion Sanders, Signs That America’s Problems Are Fixable

A few more highlights from the Koch network winter meeting in Indian Wells that you have to read about….

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and was there discussing MikeRoweWorks Foundation, his charity that granting more than $3 million in scholarships to students with a work ethic to attend trade schools across the country. (He joked that he initially didn’t want to name it after himself, and named it “MicroWorks,” but Bill Gates complained.)

Rowe offered his familiar but no less accurate assessment that society will continue to have a skills gap as long as any job that involves working with your hands is seen as second-class or inferior to white-collar work.

“We right now have 5.8 million jobs that exist that nobody can fill right now,” Mike Rowe told the assembled Koch donors. “About 75 percent do not require four year degree. We have in our heads this idea that the best path for everybody is a four-year degree. We have ‘higher education’ and — we’re not crass enough to call it ‘lower’ education — we’ll call it ‘alternative’ education. Implicit in the language that we choose is the judgment and the ultimate outcome. It’s a reflection of the kinds of jobs we’ve rewarded, and the perception that these jobs are vocational consolation prizes. We’ve absolutely created a hierarchy in work.”

Monday morning brought a presentation about the Urban Specialists program in Dallas, run by Pastor Omar Jahwar with some high profile help from Deion Sanders, the only man to play in both the World Series and a Super Bowl, and the only man to score a touchdown in the NFL and hit a home run in Major League Baseball in the same week.

Urban Specialists has connected with the lives of more than 2,000 young people in the Dallas area, and a related athletic program has helped 12,000 kids. They’ve funded scholarships, both athletic and academic, youth mentoring, and perhaps most intriguingly, using former gang members to reach out to at-risk kids.

“Nobody knows how to keep a kid out of a gang better than the people who ran in gangs themselves,” said Antong Lucky, one of the “ambassadors” of Urban Specialists.

“We’re a full service… I don’t even know what to call us,” Sanders said. “We’re out there touching the whole family. Single mothers — 70 percent of our kids are living in a single parent home. We’ll reach out to the dad, saying, ‘you may not be able to see eye to eye with your child’s mother, but can you see your child face to face?’”

Programs like these are the best of America – driven, big-hearted, smart people looking at the worst problems in their communities and figuring out how to tackle them effectively, and measurable results with optimism and good cheer. You’ll probably notice the news and political discourse hasn’t made you feel optimistic lately. It wasn’t just the desert landscape beyond the golf courses that made me feel like I was on Mars in the past few days.

At the Koch summit, yes, there was political talk, but a lot of the meeting was focused on spotlighting excellent charitable and nonprofit programs that had demonstrated tangible results in their communities. The political talk was less about who’s up and who’s down, and what’s actually going to get done in the coming two years. Koch donors want to hear about the policies, and they want the details. The Koch crowd isn’t afraid to offer a tough pushback against a traditional ally when he strays – let’s just say someone whose name rhymes with “Schmaul Schryan,” not in attendance, was accused of forgetting his free-market principles with the border adjustment tax idea – and the Koch network has made it pretty clear they’re completely willing to work with a Democrat or left-leaning group if they think it will help advance one of their priorities. It’s not bipartisanship or non-partisanship, it’s almost anti-partisanship. Just find somebody who shares one of your goals and get it done. Today’s ally might be tomorrow’s foe and vice versa, and just take it as it comes.

Checking into the news or my Twitter feed, the rest of the world had gone mad over Trump’s executive orders, with airports turning into chaos.

ADDENDA: The nation will hear President Trump’s decision on a Supreme Court nominee this evening at 8 p.m. Eastern. That’s right, a prime-time television announcement of a big decision, to know who’s going to be moving from one home court to another and making a huge impact on who wins in the most consequential battles of our era. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we go through this with LeBron James every few years.