The long-awaited questioning of former Attorney General Sally Yates got underway in the Senate this week. Most observers were expecting sparks to almost immediately fly due to the hostility that many Republican Senators seem to hold towards Yates for refusing to enforce the ‘Muslim Ban’ President Trump tried to force into place through executive action.
Those in attendance who were hoping for excitement didn’t have to wait long, and it was former Republican presidential candidate and current Texas Senator Ted Cruz who was responsible for creating the first major headline. Unfortunately for Sen. Cruz, the headline isn’t all that positive after he found himself struggling to go toe to toe with Yates.
Like Yates, Ted Cruz is also a trained lawyer. However, his legal experience didn’t help him out when he tried to take on the lifelong prosecutor over the finer points of U.S. law. It seems that Cruz made it his agenda to create headlines by attempting to back Yates into a legal corner. In this effort, he questioned the former Attorney General over a specific clause in the Immigration and Nationality Act that gives the President the power to legally block certain immigrants from entering the country if he feels that they constitute a specific threat to the nation.
In what can only be seen as an attempt to prove his knowledge of the law, Sen. Cruz decided he felt it prudent to actually quote the entire statute to Yates word for word. After finally finishing reading his notes, he then asked Yates whether the law he read didn’t constitute a ‘broad statutory authorization.’
The Senator was sure his ability to read complicated legal terms had won him the battle and obviously expected Mrs. Yates to immediately capitulate and admit that she was wrong. Unfortunately for Sen. Cruz, he seemed to not comprehend the actual issue at hand, which was whether or not the Muslim Ban went against the Constitution.
However, before she pointed out that her refusal to enforce the law was based on constitutional concerns and not any specific issue related to the Immigration and Nationality Act, Yates decided to first take the time to point out that Cruz’s knowledge of the INA wasn’t quite up to snuff either.
In response to his question, Yates first made sure that the Senator was familiar with another provision in the INA that specifically prohibits a person being discriminated against in their pursuit of a visa due to their race, nationality or birth place. She went on to make sure that Cruz knew that this provision was added to the INA later than the one that Cruz so thoughtfully quoted, and as such, the courts have already been debating on whether or not this later provision trumps the earlier statute. Only then did Yates finally bring up the point that her refusal to enforce the executive order had nothing to do with the INA and was only based on the US Constitution.
Seemingly chastened by his quick lesson in U.S. law, Sen. Cruz had no response or any further questions for Yates. In fact, most reports state that he actually left the hearing almost immediately after this exchange. Although there is as of yet no confirmation where it is that Cruz went after leaving the hearing, one can only hope it was somewhere to brush up on his knowledge of law and current events.