Ex-AG Gonzales: 'It Would Have Been Appropriate for Sally Yates to...Resign'

By Susan Jones | January 31, 2017 | 9:55am EST
White House counsel Alberto Gonzales replaced John Ashcroft as President George W. Bush's second Attorney General. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general under President George W. Bush, called the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates "pretty extraordinary," given her "tremendous service to the Department of Justice and to the American people.

"Having said that, I think I tend to agree with those who are concerned about the fact that she should have resigned," Gonzales told CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday.

In a statement issued by the White House Monday night, the Trump administration said Yates "has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States."

Yates directed DOJ attorneys not to defend Trump's executive order on immigration, saying she was not convinced that the order was "lawful."

Gonzales said it would be "very troubling" to him if the head of the Justice Department was not consulted on such a controversial measure.

He said normally, the Justice Department signs off on every presidential executive order because DOJ attorneys would have to defend the order if it's challenged.

The Trump administration says the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) did sign off on Trump's immigration order.

But Gonzales said if Yates was not aware of the advice given by OLC, "I would find that very unusual and perhaps a breakdown of the process within the Department of Justice."

Typically, Gonzales explained, OLC would discuss a controversial order with the head of the Justice Department. "But once an attorney general has an issue with an order from the White House, there should have been discussions between the attorney general and the White House counsel and the chief of staff and then, ultimately, the president of the United States, to advise the White House that she had serious concerns.

"And at that point, if the White House says we still want to move forward, I think it would have been appropriate for Sally Yates to then resign as opposed to sending out a blanket order to Department of Justice lawyers that they're not going to defend this executive order."

Gonzales said there was "at least one instance" where he had a serious disagreement with President Bush. "And depending on which way, which direction the president was going to go, I was prepared to resign my position as attorney general, because the president is entitled to have his lawful orders carried out."

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