There was point late in Richard Nixon’s time in the White House in which the Watergate scandal was closing in on him so aggressively that he began issuing illegal orders aimed at suppressing it, and firing high ranking people in rapid succession who refused to carry out those orders — thus known as the Saturday Night Massacre. It’s now taken Donald Trump all of eleven days to reach that point, as tonight he fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to carry out his unconstitutional Muslim ban.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted on Monday night at 9:16pm eastern time that Donald Trump “has named Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of VA as Acting Attorney General. Sally Yates has been relieved.” No further information was provided about Boente, but dissenters immediately hacked his Wikipedia so that it looked like this:
The Wikipedia page may have already been reverted back to its original form by the time you look at it. But hacker pranks aside, this move represents a historically destabilizing moment in United States government history. Although Sally Yates was an Obama administration holdover who would have lost her acting title once Trump’s Attorney General nominee is eventually approved, his decision to fire her means that he’s now penalizing high ranking government officials who refuse to carry out his illegal orders.
With four different federal judges in multiple states having all issued immediate stays over the weekend against Trump’s Muslim ban, it is currently illegal for Trump to try to enforce it, to fire anyone for refusing to enforce it. It’s not clear how much further down the unconstitutional rabbit hole Trump has to go before House Republicans are forced to reluctantly move forward with impeachment hearings just so preserve their own chances of reelection in 2018. But it’s clear that Trump’s own Saturday Night Massacre is already underway.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report