Charles P. Pierce on how Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn, both of Texas, were fried, dried, and laid to the side by Sally Yates.
It is not often that you see one woman demolish a state’s entire delegation to the United States Senate, but Sally Yates did the Republic a great service on Monday afternoon by demonstrating that Texas has sent to Washington a remarkable pair of deuces. First, she slapped John Cornyn silly as regards her refusal to enforce the president*’s original travel ban, the issue over which she’d been fired. He pronounced himself disappointed, and she handed him his head. Via The Washington Post:
CORNYN: Well, Ms. Yates, you had a distinguished career for 27 years at the Department of Justice and I voted for your confirmation because I believed that you had a distinguished career. But I have to tell you that I find it enormously disappointing that you somehow vetoed the decision of the Office of Legal Counsel with regard to the lawfulness of the president’s order and decided instead that you would counter man (ph) the executive order of the president of the United States because you happen to disagree with it as a policy matter.
YATES: Well, it was…
CORNYN: I just have to say that.
YATES: I appreciate that, Senator, and let me make one thing clear. It is not purely as a policy matter. In fact, I’ll remember my confirmation hearing. In an exchange that I had with you and others of your colleagues where you specifically asked me in that hearing that if the president asked me to do something that was unlawful or unconstitutional and one of your colleagues said or even just that would reflect poorly on the Department of Justice, would I say no? And I looked at this, I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful. I also thought that it was inconsistent with principles of the Department of Justice and I said no. And that’s what I promised you I would do and that’s what I did.
That was merely the appetizer. Yates, in her calm and judicious way, proceeded to make the entrée Tailgunner Ted Cruz, who started out in his customary cloud of oily arrogance and ended up being sautéed by the nice lady with the backbone of steel.
CRUZ: Well, are you familiar with 8 USC Section 1182?
YATES: Not off the top of my head, no.
CRUZ: Well, it — it — it is the binding statutory authority for the executive order that you refused to implement, and that led to your termination. So it — it certainly is a relevant and not a terribly obscure statute.By the express text of the statute, it says, quote, “whenever the president finds that entry of any alien or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interest of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate.” Would you agree that is broad statutory authorization?
YATES: I would, and I am familiar with that. And I’m also familiar with an additional provision of the INA that says no person shall receive preference or be discriminated against an issuance of a visa because of race, nationality or place of birth, that I believe was promulgated after the statute that you just quoted. And that’s been part of the discussion with the courts, with respect to the INA, is whether this more specific statute trumps the first one that you just described. But my concern was not an INA concern here. It, rather, was a constitutional concern, whether or not this — the executive order here violated the Constitution, specifically with the establishment clause and equal protection and due process.
If you don’t think that, in addition to unbounded joy among Democrats, there were at least a few indiscreet high-fives in other Republican senatorial offices, you have no idea how utterly friendless a lizard Ted Cruz really is. There are a number of things I learned from Monday’s hearing and first among them is that I want to live out my life without ever being prosecuted by Sally Yates.
(The only Republican who carried no water for the White House was young Ben Sasse of Nebraska. This is a tip for you folks out there making winter book on 2020.)
Other than that, and sweeping away all the underbrush thrown down by the Republican members of the committee—Cruz even found time to ask about Emailzzzzzz(!)—what we learned is that Michael Flynn is pretty much a hooked fish. Yates made it clear that her visit to the White House was not the “heads-up” that Sean Spicer tried to fob it off. She told them Flynn was compromised and it took them 18 days to fire him.
“To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security advisor compromised with the Russians. You don’t want the Russians to have leverage over the national security advisor.”
But, to me, the most piquant part of Yates’ testimony was her account of the reaction of the White House counsel when she told him that what Flynn had told Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn’s Russian contacts was untrue and that Pence had transmitted these untruths to the public at large. The question fully encompasses the unique ethical wasteland into which our republic has wandered.
Why, they asked her, was the Department of Justice concerned that one member of an administration lied to another?
And somewhere in the dusk, John Dean hears the strange familiar call of a raven from his past.
I can’t top that, but I am still willing to bet all the change in my pocket that Ted Cruz is planning to primary Trump in 2020.