The talk among Georgia Democratic operatives began almost as soon as President Donald Trump canned Sally Quillian Yates for ordering U.S. Justice Department attorneys not to defend his executive order restricting immigration: Can she run for governor in 2018?
Yates comes with a sparkling resume — decades of public service and high-profile court victories. A two-decade federal prosecutor in Atlanta, Yates tried public corruption cases against the likes of former Democratic Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and former Republican Georgia schools superintendent Linda Schrenko. She also prosecuted Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph.
She has a law-and-order background. Her father served on the state Court of Appeals. His father served on both the state Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court.
Yates has a history of bipartisan support and a telegenic, spotlight-ready personality. Georgia Republicans Johnny Isakson and David Perdue both voted in favor of Yates when her confirmation as deputy attorney general came before the U.S. Senate in 2015. Said Isakson:
Sally Quillian Yates is a human being I have known for almost 40 years. For 25 years she has been the lead prosecutor in the northern district of Georgia. She has been an equal opportunity prosecutor. She’s prosecuted Democrats, Republicans, independents, Olympic park bombers, anybody that violated the public trust, any abuse of power.”
Seth C. Clark, a Democratic strategist, said she can help Democrats who have long struggled to regain power in Georgia appeal to a broader electorate.
“The biggest problem Democrats have in the state of Georgia is this elusive white vote that we’ve been chasing since Sonny Perdue won,” he said. “And I’ll tell you, a woman who prosecuted a whole bunch of Atlanta politicians, with Republican support and now a full-throated stand against Donald Trump – well, that might be the magic bullet.”
And yet. Yates’ office also led the prosecution of state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, which may have alienated more Georgia Democrats than any other decision she made as the city’s top federal prosecutor. The longtime civil rights leader ultimately pleaded guilty to tax fraud and no contest to wire and mail fraud charges related to the misappropriation of approximately $1 million from non-profit organizations. Former Gov. Roy Barnes was one of Brooks’ attorneys.
Amid all this discussion, we also received this note from a prominent Democrat who preferred to stay unnamed:
[B]efore everyone rushes to canonize her, please remember that she’s the one who failed to order [FBI Director Jim] Comey to adhere to DOJ rules and not comment on Huma Abedin’s emails, and birthed this nightmare in the first place.
Update: A few hours after we posted this, Jeff DiSantis – a veteran Democratic operative who ran Michelle Nunn’s 2014 Senate campaign – called with this rebuttal:
“For a Democrat to make an anonymous attack on Sally Yates within hours of her paying the price for standing against Trump’s dangerous agenda, and to attack the Obama Administration and the Clinton campaign in the process, is just wrong at a time like this,” said DiSantis. “Someone who does that ought to at least have the courage to do so by name.”
Some Republicans, meanwhile, sound like they are spoiling for a fight.
“She failed to do her job. There’s no question about it,” said Conrad Quagliaroli, a member of the Cherokee Tea Party. “The hateful left will make heroes out of her and raise a ton of money off her. But Republicans won’t forget. She won’t have a prayer.”
Here’s the 2015 video in which U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., soon to become attorney general, asked Sally Yates, then up for deputy attorney general, whether she was willing to defy a president if he gave an unlawful order. He just didn’t mean Donald Trump:
As news of Sally Yates’ sacking was being chewed over last night, an email flowed in from Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of Atlanta-based CARE, an organization dedicated to refugee relief.
Nunn condemned the ban, and offered a hot link to supporters so that they might contact their members of Congress. From the letter:
We are better than this ban. We are a nation founded on a fundamental belief of equality, of freedom from harm and the pursuit of a better life for all people. Tell your representatives in Congress that they must take action immediately to oppose this harmful and un-American ban.
The last time we saw a global humanitarian crisis the magnitude of Syria was after World War II, when CARE was founded on the premise of providing relief to those left without anything. Today, I worry about what our grandchildren will say when they look back upon our actions in the face of the largest humanitarian disaster in 70 years.
Just as a postscript: Sally Yates’ husband Comer was a supporter of and $1,000 contributor to Nunn’s 2014 run for the U.S. Senate. He’s executive director of the Atlanta Speech School.
White House officials said they had congressional help in drafting President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. Politico.com has finally tracked that help down:
Senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee helped Donald Trump’s top aides draft the executive order curbing immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, but the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed, according to multiple sources involved in the process.
The photo above by Drew Angerer of Getty Images tells us something about the new president. This was taken Saturday, as President Donald Trump spoke on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office – in the company of national security advisor Michael Flynn (center) and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Note what’s on the table. We count 23 newspapers. This is a man who reads what’s written about him.
A Wall Street Journal report suggesting that Georgia U.S. Rep. Tom Price may have lied to senators about discounted stock shares he purchased in a biomedical firm will almost certainly add an extra dash of spice to a Senate meeting later this morning.
The Senate Finance Committee’s 10 a.m. vote on whether to advance the Roswell Republican’s health and human services nomination wasn’t exactly expected to be a low-key affair from the outset. Democrats have for weeks been hammering the seven-term congressman for his stock trades and stances on health care issues.
The Monday report by the WSJ contradicted testimony Price gave in front of the panel earlier this month about his ownership of stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. will undoubtedly add fuel to Democrats’ fire.
“Let’s put it this way: I’ve been talking all weekend with Finance Democrats,” said Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Senate committee’s top Democrat. “I’m not going to announce votes but certainly there’s very significant concern on these issues.”
The question is whether the charge carries enough weight to change any Republican minds. On Monday night, many Republicans hadn’t seen The Journal’s story, even as Price’s allies mobilized on Twitter. Several GOP members of the Finance panel indicated it would take a lot to change their positive opinions of Price.
“I’m inclined to support him,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “I didn’t know The Journal was something that was the gospel.” Kansas Republican Pat Roberts implied that Price’s qualifications trump most other factors.
“Tom Price is the best-suited guy to come up with a replacement program that will work,” he said.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp had a little fun with his response to a Democratic lawmaker’s Open Records Act request.
The Republican sent a personal reply to state Rep. Scott Holcomb’s request seeking details of illegal voting in the wake of Donald Trump’s latest false claim that millions of fraudulent ballots were cast in November.
Kemp opened the letter by praising “strict voter ID and voter verification laws” as a reason Georgia had no cases of illegal votes in 2016 – an implicit dig at Democrats who cast the 2008 legislation as an unnecessary burden that restricted ballot access for poor and elderly voters.
“Despite allegations that this law would suppress minority participation,” he wrote, “the state has seen increased minority participation since 2006.”
He added that the office has open investigations into a handful of cases of double-voting – residents who cast ballots twice – but he said that would only have been possible if county election officials failed to follow rules.
“Although I have confidence in Georgia’s elections, I cannot speak to other states that do not have these same protections,” Kemp wrote in closing. “I appreciate the concern you share for protecting Georgia’s voter rolls, and I look forward to your support of future legislation that will continue to enhance this security.”
Democrats intend to invest in an upset in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, once he’s named secretary of health and human services. The 6th District race has made it onto the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of targets.
The House passed two bills last night that could create Georgia’s first national park. One would triple the size of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park near Macon and designate it a national historic park. The second would add eight acres and an old farmhouse to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
After both proposals died a slow death in the Senate last year, Georgia boosters are hoping the upper chamber will take up the measures quickly this time around.