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Sally Yates Does Not Back Down Against Sexist Smear Campaigns, and We Are So Grateful


sally yates

This is not Sally Yates’ first rodeo when it comes to taking down powerful men who try to discredit her, and boy have they been trying lately. The President may have even committed a felony by attempting to bully influence Yates’ testimony over Twitter. Yet, while the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted” was introduced into the mainstream because of Elizabeth Warren, it could just as easily apply to Sally Yates. She is not having your misogynist condescension and bullying, thank you.

First there was the above gem, which we discussed yesterday. In addition to warranting trolling from the actual dictionary, there’s something a bit more insidious going on with this tweet. Trump tweeted this ahead of Yates’ testimony during the senate hearing on Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential election and, as Salon put it, was basically saying, “Translation: That’s some really nice testimony ya got there, Yates: Shame if something were to happen to it. And by ‘it,’ I mean ‘you.’

This kind of Tweet may actually have been illegal for multiple reasons. First, Presidents don’t get to just delete tweets to take something back or correct something. Thanks to the Presidential Records Act, everything that a sitting President writes and puts out there has to be archived. Now, as TMS’ Vivian Kane pointed out in her recent piece, Trump is bad at internetting. That’s still no excuse. A statement from White House spokeswoman Kelly Love in a recent interview with CNN doesn’t inspire much confidence either.

Love said, “We have systems in place to capture all tweets and preserve them as presidential records; even if they have been deleted.” But she didn’t really elaborate on what those systems are.

The second reason this Tweet may be illegal is even more troubling. Our President was actively trying to intimidate someone testifying at a hearing, which under Title 18 of the U.S. Code constitutes witness tampering, which is a felony.

It’s bad enough that the President himself is attempting to discredit this woman publicly, but his Administration takes cues from him, and they too are on the Discredit Sally Yates bandwagon.

During his daily press conference yesterday, perpetual White House comedic gem, Sean Spicer, bent over backwards to defend Mike Flynn, who was fired as National Security Advisor 18 days after being alerted by then-Attorney General Yates about his potential connection to Russia and being a target for Russian blackmail and influence.

When asked why, Trump is so willing to defend Flynn even after his firing, Spicer responded, “I think Mike Flynn is somebody who has honorably served this country in uniform for over thirty years. And I think as he’s noted, Lt. Gen Flynn was asked for his resignation because he misled the VP. But beyond that i think he did have an honorable career, he served with distinction in uniform for over 30 years, and the President does not want to smear a good man.”

How did he describe Yates? Who gave them all a “heads-up” about Flynn’s Russia connection? “Let’s look at how this came down. Someone who is not exactly a supporter of the President’s agenda. Who a couple days after this first conversation took place refused to uphold a lawful order of the President’s, who is not exactly someone who was excited about President Trump taking office or his agenda. She had come here … told us there were materials. And at the same time, we did what we should do.” He then went on to say that she was a “political opponent of the President,” and that just because the Attorney General gives a heads up about something, doesn’t mean you take a rash action.

As if Yates was some rando off the street and not the Attorney General. As if it wasn’t her job to warn them about legal conflicts of interest and mitigate the damage they do! (Seriously, if Spicer said “heads up” one more time, I was going to punch my laptop.)

Also, as if no one in the history of time has ever been suspended (not fired) as an investigation was happening. Instead, Flynn continued to work as usual for 18 days until he was finally asked for his resignation. Meanwhile, um…

You can FEEL the doublethink happening, can’t you? The attempt at the erasure of history as it happened in favor of the history this Administration would like us to remember. The attempt to make someone who was simply doing her job look like she was politically motivated when she was dismissed and ignored precisely because she was a “political opponent of the President.” In other words, Trump’s administration is guilty of the very thing they were accusing her of.

It’s frightening.

But this kind of bullying and attempted discrediting isn’t new to Yates, nor does she historically back down from it. Back in the day, when she was investigating then-Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell for corruption, bribes, and questionable campaign contributions, he and his supporters tried to turn things on her by accusing her of “going after” black officials. Campbell was eventually indicted and found guilty of tax evasion, and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

At a press conference, Yates responded by saying, “This case revealed a troubling number of officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies who betrayed their oaths to protect and serve, taking cash from the very criminals they should have been arresting.”

Smear campaigns are nothing against provable facts and a ridiculously talented prosecutor who also actually has a moral compass. Whether it’s standing up against Trump’s unlawful Muslim ban to taking down the blustering men of the Senate with, you know, the actual law and not just the parts they cherry-pick because they were handed them as talking points, Yates is a force of nature who continually fills me with hope that there are still people out there willing to fight the good fight.

(via Salon and Share Blue, image: screencap)

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