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The New York Times Spinning of the Sally Yates Firing

The New York Times Spinning of the Sally Yates Firing

The MSM, hard at work

In his pre-presidential life, Trump was famous for saying, “You’re fired!” to people on his TV reality show. But Trump’s firing of acting AG Sally Yates was no reality show. In real life, an AG advises a president on the law, but if that AG refuses to enforce an order that has been “approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel,” then a likely consequence would be that the AG could be fired.

The NY Times reports Yates’ motivation this way:

Ms. Yates, like other senior government officials, was caught by surprise by the executive order and agonized over the weekend about how to respond, two Justice Department officials involved in the weekend deliberations said. Ms. Yates considered resigning but she told colleagues she did not want to leave it to her successor to face the same dilemma.

But I would imagine that Ms. Yates understood that her successor would almost certainly face the same dilemma, whether Yates resigned or was fired. And although I grant that Yates and other government officials may indeed have been surprised by the speed of Trump’s executive order, if they were surprised by the content of the order then they hadn’t been paying much attention to Trump’s campaign.

I am often in awe of the delicate nuances of the writing in the NY Times, designed to subtly sway the reader without the reader necessarily noticing the mechanisms by which that happens. Consider, for example, the very first paragraph of the Times’ Yates-firing story:

President Trump fired his acting attorney general on Monday night, removing her as the nation’s top law enforcement officer after she defiantly refused to defend his executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries.

Sounds rather straightforward if you’re just reading it and taking it in passively. But let’s take it phrase by phrase. It’s only a single sentence and not an especially long one at that, but there’s a lot packed into it.

his acting attorney general”—This is certainly technically true, if “his” means “acting under him.” But Yates is an Obama appointee, acting as AG only until a successor (most likely Jeff Sessions) is confirmed, which should be occurring very shortly. In other words, Obama-appointee Yates only became acting AG on January 20, 2017, when Trump was inaugurated. She is being fired 10 days later, shortly before her more permanent successor is appointed, the one who will actually be “his”—i.e. Trump’s—AG.

“she defiantly refused”—This is certainly true as well. The Times likes the phrase so much that they use it in the article’s headline, as well: “Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Defied Him.” “Defiance” can be interpreted two ways. It can be considered insubordination by those who disagree with the defiance, but the liberal/left is very likely to consider Yates’ defiance not only laudable but the proper position they all should take, a guide to future defiant actions in the name of righteousness (or self-righteousness).

“his executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries”—But any “closing” of the borders is temporary, a fact the article’s authors choose not to emphasize. Even more importantly, Trump’s immigration EO’s temporary “closing” does not apply to a great many “refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries.” In fact, it does not apply to the world’s countries with the largest number of Muslims—Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Turkey—as well as many other countries with very large Muslim populations.

Yes, the countries targeted by the Trump EO are indeed “predominantly Muslim.” But their predominantly Muslim nature is not the reason they were chosen since far larger numbers of Muslims are being allowed in as long as they are from countries not presently designated as being at high risk for terror. The countries involved in the EO were chosen (originally by the Obama administration, although the Times leaves that fact out) because terrorism is very active in them, and because the current vetting system for people from those countries is being evaluated and fine-tuned.

The news cycle moves on. In a month, in a year, most people will probably need their memory refreshed in order to remember who Sally Yates was and what she did. But the Times will continue to decide what to put in and what to leave out, leading its readers in the manner it thinks is best for them.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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This lady’s behavior was absolutely inexcusable.
If she had doubts regarding the legality of the EO she should have brought it up with her boss. Instead, she went behind his back, and she issued a counter-order and created a media storm, without even bothering to produce evidence of any supposed illegality.
If it was up to me, she would be disbarred.

    To me, a lawyer with government-granted authority should not use that authority to attempt to deny a client legal representation in a court of law. To me, this principle is no different regarding a homeless person being denied a legal aid attorney, or the Acting Attorney General commanding that no lawyer under the Department of Justice is to represent the federal government in a particular courtroom matter. It is not the place of a government official to deny clients legal representation.

    Conspiring to do so should get someone disbarred. I’m sure it won’t, but it should.

      Ragspierre in reply to JBourque. | February 1, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Both legal ethics and the rules of procedure (both state and Federal) forbid an attorney to plead any position not supported in fact OR law.

      So, provided that there may be a position a government lawyer would find they were barred by the law or the facts from advocating, they would in fact be wrong to “provide representation”.

      Ethical lawyers do this all the time.

        CloseTheFed in reply to Ragspierre. | February 1, 2017 at 10:07 am

        In fact or law, or a good faith effort to extend or change law.

          Ragspierre in reply to CloseTheFed. | February 1, 2017 at 10:41 am

          A category like frog fur that I did not feel warranted mentioning.

          You are correct, of course. In application, IMNHO, it has been mostly used to create new, bad law. But that’s just me…

        Is it normal for an attorney to make this determination for other attorneys and not just herself?

        I’m also mindful that a section of the DoJ signed off on the order. But, I’m not really focused on the merits. Those can be argued in an adversarial courtroom. I’m aggrieved by the idea that the services of the DoJ can be denied to a president at the drop of a hat and people think this is okay. If it was legal for Trump to hire his own attorneys to argue these cases at his own expense, perhaps there is that, but I suspect that’s not quite how Congress drew things up.

          Ragspierre in reply to JBourque. | February 1, 2017 at 11:21 am

          “I’m aggrieved by the idea that the services of the DoJ can be denied to a president at the drop of a hat and people think this is okay.”

          But that isn’t supported by the facts.

          Sure, there are people who support Yates in knee-jerk. It’s who they are.

          “Is it normal for an attorney to make this determination for other attorneys and not just herself?”

          Of course and absolutely! Heads of firms and agencies do it every day, and they had BETTER!

          The issue here is did she do it ON THE MERITS?, and the clear answer is NO!.

          DaveGinOly in reply to JBourque. | February 1, 2017 at 8:02 pm

          If Yates had personal reservations about the EO’s possible ethical, legal, or constitutional failings, I could see her saying,”I will not personally defend the EO, nor will I order any employee to do so, nor take any action against those who refuse to do so.” This would have left the option for DOJ attorneys who do support the EO to step forward. The way she did it though, by ordering subordinates to abide by her personal judgment, I thought out of line. It would discourage subordinates from stepping forward for fear of violating a directive or order (one that the may not have had the authority to issue).

buckeyeminuteman | February 1, 2017 at 8:43 am

Bye, Felicia

casualobserver | February 1, 2017 at 8:49 am

The NYT is just as often not subtle and crafty, but in your face partisan. When they choose each approach is sort of a mystery. But one thing is clear to me: They, like most of the media, focus mostly on getting the first version to fit their intent. Retractions and correction are often missed down the road, so “the record” stands with the original smear unless the research looking back is properly diligent.

The left end of the Collective needs a hero, and she’s got the most juice they can try to squeeze.

It won’t work, really. She wasn’t a “hero”. She was just another partisan in government who didn’t know her duties or her limits.

    Freddie Sykes in reply to Ragspierre. | February 1, 2017 at 9:04 am

    If she wanted to be a hero, she would have resigned over the issue. Instead, she choose to defy her boss and got fired.

      Ragspierre in reply to Freddie Sykes. | February 1, 2017 at 9:12 am

      I’ll disgree slightly. She SHOULD…on principle…have FOUND a LEGAL principle on which to stand, and then make her case to POTUS. IF she’d done that, resigning would at least have been an honorable thing to do.

      As it was, according to the little I know about her action, she never based anything on a legal argument. It was essentially an unsupported assertion of “badness”.

        C. Lashown in reply to Ragspierre. | February 1, 2017 at 9:22 am

        re: “IF she’d done that, resigning would at least have been an honorable thing to do.”

        I doubt that ‘honor’ is something liberal fanatics think about very much. Feelings are much more convenient…

    DaveGinOly in reply to Ragspierre. | February 1, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    She’s positioning herself to be the next AG under a Democratic administration (which she probably believes will come in 2020). It was a strategic move in which she willingly accepts the loss of the battle in hopes of winning the war. Not having an articulable reason for her defiance won’t bother the next Democrat president.

Well, fact is, the order didn’t “close” the nation’s borders. Hundreds of thousands of people came in and went out. That’s like saying, “The Falcon’s stadium was closed to people who brought their own beer.” Sure, they don’t want people not paying for beer, but it wasn’t closed. Tens of thousands of people attend the game, and you’re simply not admitted if you want to avoid buying things in the stadium. Which, okay, things are expensive at the stadium. Stick to hotdogs.

As far as whether this is or isn’t a “muslim” ban, let me be clear: People with no ties to the United States have no right to entry. Entry is a privilege. It is the right of America to decide who we let in, and why.

If we are a signer to any treaty that requires us to give up our sovereignty and lets other countries or international bodies, or by its terms imposes standards we do not want, then we should withdraw from those treaties.

I am in favor of a muslim ban. Europe, and for that matter, Dearborn, Michigan, show me that it is the only policy that will keep America’s culture consistent with the benefits of western civilization that we all TAKE FOR GRANTED. The future isn’t guaranteed and we’re naive to assume we can throw a theocracy into the mix and keep the same rights we enjoy now.

As long as muslims are a minority, they pretend they’re oppressed. As soon as they reach 5% or 10% of a population, they start throwing their weight around. Ask Germany, ask the Netherlands, ask Italy, ask Dearborn.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to CloseTheFed. | February 1, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Let the New York Times explain away those scores and scores of jumbo jet planes flying into Kennedy Airport all week……..

The countries targeted by the Trump EO are “failed nation states”

Humphrey's Executor | February 1, 2017 at 9:32 am

In Britain they follow the doctrine of Collective Responsibility. If you are a member of the cabinet and you cannot publicly support a Government policy, you resign. Then you are free to voice your objection to your heart’s content.

Great piece, neo-neocon. I think that I will print this one out and use it as a discussion piece during school today. The importance of being an active and careful reader!

    Helen in reply to Anonamom. | February 1, 2017 at 10:16 am

    I would love to hear more about in what school environment you have the opportunity to use this as a teaching tool. Would you care to share? Thank you!

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Helen. | February 1, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Maybe a private school?

      Anonamom in reply to Helen. | February 1, 2017 at 6:08 pm


      My daughter is 14 and very interested in current affairs; it’s a frequent topic of conversation. We’ve been a bit crazy today and tonight is Awana, but the article is now on the schedule for tomorrow’s morning time discussion. 🙂

        notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Anonamom. | February 1, 2017 at 7:33 pm

        You can even do college through homeschool today can’t you?

          I believe that you are correct, but my short person will be very ready to flee the nest when the time comes for college. Our primary concern, at this point, is to keep her focused on attaining the degree that she would like with little or no debt. A happy/unhappy consequence of her academic achievement, I suspect, is that she will have to choose between a full ride at a second tier school versus a more expensive trip to a top tier school. (My kid is really awesome, not that I’m biased or anything. 🙂 )

        Helen in reply to Anonamom. | February 2, 2017 at 10:21 am

        That is great Anonamom! There should be countless examples of the media spinning info for their own agenda. Good luck!

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | February 1, 2017 at 10:02 am

The New York Times is so behind the Times.

Sally is so last month.

Before the week is out the Leftist Times will have a few more dozen outrages to rage on about.

    It is not just the NYT, it is the Wall Street Journal. I have marked up the Editorial Opinion page with my red pen. It is completely covered with BS statements made. The Brooking Institute globalist and comment quoting Haass is just mind numbing.

    Their hate towards Miller and Brennon are fueling their rage. I thought the GOP has some problems, but it is obvious that they are a mess and the NeverTrumps are crashing and burning every new day. They are screaming that the XO was against the 14th Amendment and these non-citizens are entitled to due process. I know the 14th Amendment has been abused in the past, but these idiots are taking it to a new level. I sure hope the “non-citizen” rights issue is put to rest soon. Please file the lawsuits because in the end you are going to loose. Foreign born immigrants issues have been part of this country since it was founded.

Yates has already been nominated for the Kennedy-inspired “Profiles in Courage” award.

I could see it, if her stand had produced something (other than her firing).

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Neo. | February 1, 2017 at 10:50 am

    That’s sort of like Obama’s “Nobel Peace Prize”….followed by his 8-years of continuous war……..

It’s hard to overstate how irrelevant the NYT has become. Babbling idiots is as kind a description of them I can muster.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | February 1, 2017 at 11:01 am

I have not read the story (and don’t intend to) so what I am about to say may be off base.

But the angle the New York Times should have taken with Yates firing is that the reason why she was fired is because the Democrats are slow walking the confirmation of Trump’s cabinet secretaries, unnecessarily creating chaos.

I read somewhere that is the slowest rate of confirmations since the 1930s.

I have a theory that Yates really believed that Trump would back down in the face of her righteousness. Liberals are very poor at linking cause and effect. So while she knew he had the power to fire her, she did not consider it a reasonable possibility.

I came up with this theory because the alternative, that she wanted to be fired so she could command a higher salary at her post-DoJ career as a law professor/talking head/best-selling author, attributes far too much cunning and foresight to someone with such a puerile understanding of policy.

In other words, stupid is as stupid does.

The reality of this is that Ms. Yates decided to publicly state that she was defying the President of the United States PRIOR to being relieved of her post. Not a good idea. And, she did it over an order which was virtually the same as one issued by the President who appointed her to all of her federal offices.

Given her seeming unconditional support for all the actions of the Obama administration, it was unlikely that she would have been kept on at DOJ once Sessions took office. So, she merely moved up the time of her leaving the department. And, she did it in such a way as be assured that she will be taken care of by the Democrats and the Establishment.

The current strategy of the liberal/progressives is to paint Trump as a tyrant. To do this, they try to create the optics of a brave compassionate individual as courageously standing up against the tyranny of the Trump administration. And, this is exactly how this is all being spun. It is all political theater. And not very good theater at that. But I suppose it plays well with the audience of Bored Housewives of Wherever.

    CloseTheFed in reply to Mac45. | February 1, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Dear Mac45:
    I agree with all you wrote, except the “Bored Housewives.”

    Seems to me that it plays well with the uneducated college kids, whose core curriculum doesn’t require any western history courses, and who are otherwise inflated with their own “holiness” based upon their mistaken moral superiority.


      Bored Housewives is a vacuous reality show which is heavily scripted; just like the “spontaneous” anti-Trump revolution. Never lose sight of what drives this theater. It is all about the money, but is portrayed as being a revolt against tyranny. And, Bored Housewives is widely viewed by under-educated college kids.

As an Atlanta native, I was very disappointed to read that she is an Atlanta native and went to UGA for both Bachelor’s and law degrees. There aren’t enough actual Atlanta natives to waste one like this.

Ms. Yates considered resigning but she told colleagues she did not want to leave it to her successor to face the same dilemma.

I wonder what dilemma that would be. “Do I do my job?” vs. “Do I not do my job?” hardly puts her in Hamlet territory.

… his executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries.

Nothing subtle here. Two outright lies. The Times might as well have put in a few more … maybe something along the lines of, “President Trump’s tyrannical decree, issued while he put yet another puppy in the White House blender …”

You know, if they don’t like being called Democrat operatives with bylines, maybe they should stop acting like Democrat operatives with bylines.

Next stop is the liberal lecture tour for her. Probably make more money from adoring liberal fans.

Henry Hawkins | February 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Oh, I think Sally Yates knew full well she’d get fired. I also think she knew full well that martyring herself would make all the leftists giddy about her. That being said, look for Yates to line herself up for political office based on her ideological/political martyrdom. The Democrat bench is so weak, she may even have her eye on the White House. If the MSM narrative on her changes from ‘Trump fired an Obama appointee’ to ‘TRUMP FIRED A WOMAN!” it’s a sign the Dems want her celebritized.