The Cable

Nixon Lawyer Warns of ‘Calamity,’ Calls Trump’s Statement on Firing of Acting AG ‘A New Low’

John Dean, who kept a list of political enemies, says he has never seen a statement so "nasty."

yates

Even the “master manipulator” of the Watergate’s cover-up is appalled by the way President Donald Trump dispatched his acting attorney general.

John Dean, who earned that moniker from the FBI in 1974 after he served as White House counsel to Richard Nixon, said in a tweet late Monday that he’d never seen a White House statement as “nasty” as the one issued against former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Trump fired Yates Monday for refusing to defend legal challenges to his ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. In a statement, the White House said Yates “has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

Dean, who in 1971 wrote a memo detailing Nixon’s political enemies, called the White House statement a “new low,” adding that “even Republicans know” that the Trump administration will end in calamity.

On Tuesday, Dean continued his attacks, asserting Trump wasn’t a Republican. “So it’s striking how he is using them and they him to get what each wants. It’s pure political swamp politics,” he wrote.

Dean was not the only one to react to Yates’s dismissal on social media. Others on Twitter were quick to call up video evidence suggesting that team Trump perhaps should not have been surprised by Yates’s stance.

In 2015, during her hearing to become deputy attorney general, Yates explained that her job would be to offer independent legal advice. She said so after she was asked whether she would carry out unlawful executive orders. By whom?

By Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s nominee for attorney general.

Yates’s firing, then, raises the question of what will happen if those under Sessions (if confirmed) also feel they are being made to carry out unlawful orders, and whether Sessions’s 2015 questioning of Yates will come back to haunt him.

Such questions will likely not be answered for some time. But, as Dean likely knows from his Watergate days, calamity can come quickly.

Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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