Former acting attorney general Sally Yates and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) went head-to-head into a heated exchanged over the President’s travel ban Monday.
Yates was fired as acting attorney general for refusing to carry out the President’s first iteration of a travel ban in January. During a Senate hearing on Monday, Cruz questioned Yates over her refusal to carry out the president’s travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Cruz read a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the president the power to bar immigrants from the country if it’s in the best interest of the country.
“Would you agree that is broad statutory authorization,” Cruz asked.
Yates fired back that she was familiar with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and spouted out another statute.
“I am also familiar with an additional provision of the INA, that says no person shall receive preference or be discriminated against in issuance of a visa because of race, nationality or place of birth,” she said. “That I believe was promulgated after the statute you just quoted and that’s been part of the discussion with the courts, with respect to the INA, was whether this more specific statute trumps the first one you just described.”
Yates said her original concern was not over the Immigration and Nationality Act, but whether the president’s executive order violated the Constitution.
“But my concern was not an INA concern here; it rather was a constitutional concern whether or not ... the executive order here violated the Constitution specifically with the establishment clause and equal protection and due process," she said.
Yates also claimed that the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department office that advises the president on legal matters and had previously approved Trump’s order, was specifically instructed not share its deliberations with Yates and other interim Justice leadership before the travel ban was made public.
She did not detail who instructed the OLC not to share its views with her and other top Justice officials.
"Not only were we not consulted, we weren't even told about it,'' Yates told Cruz.
Yates said she was “not convinced that [the travel ban] was lawful.”
Contributing: Kevin Johnson.