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Former AG Warns Trump: 'Exercise Care' When You Speak

Newsmax TV's "America Talks Live"

By    |   Wednesday, 01 Feb 2017 04:28 PM

Former U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales tells Newsmax TV that President Donald Trump should immediately temper his colorful rhetoric now that he is in the White House.

"This president, in many ways sort of defies conventional wisdom and previous practice. So it remains to be seen how it all works out," Gonzales said Wednesday to J.D. Hayworth on "America Talks Live."

"But if I'm advising the president, quite frankly as a lawyer, I would advise him, let's exercise some degree of care about the words that we use."

Gonzales suggestion comes in the wake of Trump's handling of his executive order to ban refugees and immigrants from Muslim-heavy countries from entering the U.S. That order culminated in him firing Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, saying she had "betrayed" him and was "weak" on immigration.

On Monday, Yates told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments that defended Trump's order.

In a letter to Trump, Yates said: "My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts.

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"In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful."

That triggered a statement from the White House saying Yates "betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.

"Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration. It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals traveling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country."

But Gonzales, who also served as White House counsel under President George W. Bush, is uncomfortable with Trump's missive criticizing Yates.

"Words do have consequences, there's no question about that and obviously when we're taking about criminal statute or any kind of criminal repercussions, it's very important that the words of that law be clear," Gonzales said.

"So words do matter in this arena, particularly the words of the president of the United States. His words have currency, not just here domestically but internationally … What I would say as a general matter, I think you ought to exercise some degree of care when making comments about policy both foreign and domestic."

Still, noted Gonzales, Trump did have the constitutional authority to ax Yates.

"The president of the United States as the head of the executive branch can make a removal of someone that works within the executive branch for any reason. The only reason that would be improper would be to obstruct justice and that certainly was not the case in here," he said.

"The circumstances of everything that transpired I think were very, very unfortunate and really didn't have to come to this, quite frankly."

Asked if Yates was "grandstanding" in her defiance of Trump, Gonzales said no.

"I wouldn't characterize it as grandstanding based upon her record and her service for the department and for the American people. It's hard for me to second guess why she did what she did, although I do have questions why she simply did not resign as opposed to sending out that directive," he said.

But, he added, "If I'm the attorney general and I have a concern about something the president's about to sign, I'm going to want to have a conversation with at least the council of the president and with the chief of staff and quite frankly I really want to have a conversation with the president.

"I'm curious as to whether or not that occurred. Was she given an opportunity to air her concerns with the Whites House? And maybe she asked and she was rebuffed and as a result she felt that she had to do this act of directing the U.S. attorneys not to defend this executive order. Again, it's all very, very unfortunate because I think it elevates this to a position that it didn't need to."

Gonzales believes that Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for attorney general, will be confirmed.

"He's well known by obviously his current colleagues in the Senate and I think he'll do a good job as attorney general," he said.

As far as Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, Gonzales is satisfied he'll do a good job.

"He worked for me when I was at the Department of Justice. He is obviously a man of ferocious intellect but also he is a person of great calm, his demeanor is very calm and welcoming," he said.

"He's a gentleman, very, very polite and I think that demeanor is going to actually make him very, very successful in dealing with his colleagues on the Supreme Court … I think at the end of Trump's time as president of the United States, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch will come to be one of President Trump's shining legacies."

Gonzales is author of "True Faith and Allegiance: A Story of Service and Sacrifice in War and Peace," published by Thomas Nelson.

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Former U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales tells Newsmax TV that President Donald Trump should immediately temper his colorful rhetoric now that he is in the White House.
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2017-28-01
Wednesday, 01 Feb 2017 04:28 PM
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