Tag Archives: Trump

Sally Yates, National Hero

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Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates is a genuine American hero. She has at least twice in the past month stood up to the president to champion the Constitution and the rule of law as well as to warn him of the treachery of one of his appointments. Was she lauded for her patriotism and insight? No: She was promptly fired and excoriated by Donald Trump for doing her job.

In the wake of Trump’s executive order banning the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries into the U.S., Yates 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 nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful. For as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Also, in January, Yates warned the White House that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was misleading others in the Trump Administration about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.; that he did not divulge that he had made deals with Russia promising to lift U.S. sanctions levied against them by President Obama for interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign even before Trump was elected president; and that he was highly vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government. Recordings provided by U.S, security operatives proved that Flynn had colluded with a foreign government to undermine the strength of then-President Obama’s sanctions. That gave an enemy state an incentive to undermine a U.S. presidential election in order to prop up a friendly U.S. regime that would bow to their will, and gave them something to use against Flynn in order to blackmail him. By engaging in these conversations, Flynn broke his oath to support the Constitution of the United States. He is, quite simply, a traitor, and Sally Yates warned Trump’s White House of that weeks ago.

The Trump White House did not believe Flynn’s treachery should prompt his ouster, which implies that Trump or his advisers had already been aware of his interactions with the Russian ambassador, or that the White House supported them, or both. They did not evict Flynn from his post until news video of Vice President Mike Pence looking like he was unaware of what was going on behind his back made Pence look clueless and out of the loop. Clearly, being beholden to the Russians is no sin in their eyes, but looking weak.

Last month Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, was abruptly dismissed by the White House after directing Justice Department lawyers not to defend the new administration’s travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries. Why? Because she knew it was unconstitutional as written, would never hold up in court and would violate the oaths that she and the president had taken to uphold the Constitution. She was doing her job, had no choice but to oppose defending an illegal edict, and she was proved right in her assessment when the travel ban was later struck down as unconstitutional by a three-judge panel. For her efforts to do the right thing, Trump said Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice” and fired her. But Yates is exactly the sort of brave and conscientious person I want watching over my freedoms and rights and holding my government accountable.

Tomorrow Belongs to Me

Here is a chilling scene from the musical Cabaret by composers John Kander and Fred Ebb. In this first week of the Trump presidency, when our freedoms are already being ripped from us and a dark, xenophobic hatred is settling on our nation, sharing this troubling work of art feels particularly and horribly apt and important.

Kander and Ebb wrote a number of musicals, including Chicago, together. Their biggest hits were stories of darkness and decadence in which the music, though catchy and clever, eloquently underscored the sordid qualities of the worlds in which their stories took place. Their songs (including “Cabaret,”  “New York, New York,” “Maybe This Time” and “All That Jazz“) are so pleasing that they can be pulled from their context and enjoyed as great tunes whenever and wherever you like. But in context, Kander and Ebb’s songs enrich and amplify the plays’ messages and power and make them two of the most important creators in the musical theater canon.

As Jews and homosexuals born in the 1920s, both Kander and Ebb had seen and experienced antisemitic and homophobic bigotry personally. One imagines that those difficult experiences can only have deepened their understanding of and sympathy for the characters for whom they wrote.

Please watch this clip to the end to experience its full, chilling power. Far from being a simple musical comedy, Cabaret is the story of life around a Berlin cabaret during the rise of the Nazi party during the early 1930s. It shows how evil infiltrates a cultured and cosmopolitan nation, and how no amount of retreating to the cabaret for distractions can keep the evil truths of the outside world from overtaking a once-beautiful culture.