Office of Public Affairs / Flickr sally yates...
Office of Public Affairs / Flickr

On Tuesday, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates took time out to praise Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying that we should have “tremendous confidence” in Mueller, and that he was a “consummate professional.”

“He is going to call it like he sees it. He’s going to do this the right way.”

Despite having handed over the keys to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Yates also expressed her continued faith in the Department of Justice and the “thousands of career-DOJ people that are there that care deeply about the mission and the integrity” of the department. 

However, Yates wasn’t upbeat on all topics. In particular, she was concerned that, while nothing that has emerged so far is, in Yate’s mind, adequate to support impeachment, that doesn’t mean Americans should be ignoring interference, misdirection, lies and other bad behavior.

The real problem is different, Yates said: “There are facts here that should be alarming to us as a country that fall short of facts that would establish a basis for impeachment or for prosecution.” While Mueller is investigating whether any federal crimes were committed, which could potentially be grounds for prosecution or impeachment, “surely that’s not our bar,” she said. “That’s not the standard of conduct that we’re looking for from our president or our administration. It shouldn’t just be whether they committed a felony or not.”

There’s a big area between “Trump hasn’t yet been impeached” and “Trump has done nothing wrong.” Americans shouldn’t be willing to accept “not dragged from office” as the standard for “good behavior.”

No matter whether Trump has committed a crime, his administration has undermined long-standing practices of neutrality, respect, and integrity among the various agencies and branches of government, she said. “It’s not just that the president is making comments undermining the legitimacy of judges who issue opinions he doesn’t like,” she said:

No matter how many times we attempt to remind ourselves that This Is Not Normal, Trump’s daily battering of the press, the justice system, political opponents—everything and anyone not at that moment giving him personal praise—is wearing. It’s only been a matter of a few months since Trump took office, and we’ve already become accepting of the simple idea that Trump will lie to us, every day, about multiple topics.

If Trump were just now bringing up his first-day in office complaints that the inaugural crowd was under-counted, it would barely be noticed. Why should it be? In a day when Trump attacks both the Washington Post and the New York Times as “fake news,” then goes on to distort both the nature and the status of a healthcare bill, any complaint about the headcount at an event would seem trivial.

Trump has turned up the temperature of outrageous behavior every day, not in tiny increments, but in huge, viscous jerks. All the frogs long ago found themselves boiling. Now we’re just waiting to cook.

We have got a delicate balance there between the three branches of government, and that balance has served us pretty darn well for many, many years now. The idea that that balance is being thrown out of kilter by not just disagreeing with what a court might do, but attempting to de-legitimize it … it concerns me that that can be really destructive and be further divisive.

Don’t worry. Trump will only attack the judges he doesn’t like. Gorsuch, and other appointees like him that know how to bow, will be fine.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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