Sally Yates will testify before a Senate subcommittee this afternoon regarding what she told the White House about Michael Flynn’s alleged Russia ties.
This comes several months after Yates was fired as acting attorney general by the Trump administration. The Trump White House fired her because she declined to defend the administration’s executive order on immigration.
So who exactly is Sally Yates, the former U.S. deputy attorney general? Here’s what you need to know about her.
1. She Is From Atlanta, Georgia & Was Inspired by Her Father & Grandmother
Sally Yates was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1960.
She comes from a family of lawyers and judges, with her father being J. Kelley Quillian. Quillian served on the Georgia Court of Appeals from 1966 through 1984. According to the Georgia Court of Appeals website.
Shortly after he retired, J. Kelley Quillian committed suicide. Yates has says that she tries not to allow her father’s life to be defined by his death.
“Certainly, losing any family member to suicide carries with it a special kind of pain,” she told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “As traumatic as his death was, over the years I’ve come to not want to define his life, or my time with him, in the manner in which he died, but rather in all those years that he lived.”
She went on to say that she wishes her father could have been around to see her succeed in life.
“I would have loved sharing my experiences here with him,” she said. “Even more than that, I would have loved for him to have known his grandchildren.”
Sally Yates’ grandmother also inspired her, as she was one of the first woman admitted to the Georgia State Bar.
“She would have been a heck of a lawyer,” Yates told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “But women weren’t hired as lawyers back then. It just wasn’t done. So instead, she was a secretary, first to my grandfather, who was a lawyer, and then for my father and his brother and their practice.”
2. She Served as Deputy Attorney General & Was Appointed by Barack Obama
Yates was formerly the United States Deputy Attorney General, having been appointed by Barack Obama in January 2015. She was confirmed that May, at which point she became the second highest ranking person in the Justice Department.
Yates’ confirmation was initially opposed by Republicans, but she was able to win them over during her confirmation process; she was approved on a 84-12 vote, according to The Washington Times.
As deputy attorney general, Sally Yates oversaw 116,000 employees, including the FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Prisons, according to The Washington Post.
When Sally Yates was confirmed as deputy attorney general, she said one of her goals would be granting clemency to nonviolent drug offenders. The Obama administration ultimately granted clemency to more individuals than any administration since Harry Truman.
“Those policies were enacted at a time of an exploding violent-crime rate and serious crack problems,” Yates said in 2015, referring to drug sentencing policies from the 1980s and 1990s. “They were based on the environment we were in. But things have changed now, and violent crime rates have dropped dramatically.”
During her confirmation hearing, Yates was praised by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson.
“Sally is a great hero of the state of Georgia for 25 years she’s been in the office of Northern District of Georgia prosecuting criminal on public integrity all kind of things like the Olympic Park bombing,” Isakson said. “For the last five years, she’s been the chief attorney, and she’s proved herself over and over and over again to be to be effective to be fair to be diligent and to be the kind of person that you would want representing you in the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
3. She Started Working at the Department of Justice in 1989
Sally Yates’ career in the United States Department of Justice stretches back nearly three decades.
Yates started in 1989 as assistant attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia. In 1994, she became chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section; in 2002, she became first assistant U.S. Attorney; in 2004, she became acting U.S. Attorney; and in 2010, she became U.S. Attorney.
“She’s remarkably talented and has a solution to every problem,” former FBI director Louis J. Freehsaid told The Washington Post in 2014. “Her biggest fans are the FBI street agents, the DEA agents, the postal inspectors and the Secret Service. Everybody sings her praises. And she has no ego. She would rather be writing a sentencing memo than get up and have a press conference.”
Eric Holder, former attorney general of the United States, has also praised Yates.
“She was totally conversant with the facts,” Holder said in 2015, recalling his first impression of Yates. “She had a real knowledge of the law and a real good tactical sense about where this case ought to go, good predictions that were borne out about how ultimately it was going to be resolved. She had done her homework. She showed a keen sensitivity to the trauma that this had inflicted on the Atlanta region. She just was a star.”
The most prominent case Sally Yates has been involved in is that of Eric Rudolph, the man behind several anti-abortion and anti-gay bombings in the 1990s; Yates served as lead prosecutor of that case, and Rudolph ultimately received four consecutive life sentences.
“She did a phenomenal job putting that difficult, complicated case together,” former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, who worked with Yates on the Rudolph Case, told The Washington Post in 2014.
Yates has also prosecuted a number of corruption cases.
“Our prosecutions demonstrate to the world that the United States won’t allow its companies – or companies listed on its exchanges – to engage in corrosive conduct abroad,” Yates said in November 2016. “The damage caused by corruption is just as real in Angola and Azerbaijan as it is in Atlanta and Albuquerque, and it’s our obligation to advance the rule of law wherever our laws apply.”
4. She Was Fired After Saying She Would Not Defend the Trump Administration’s Executive Order on Immigration
In January, Yates said that she would not defend the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration, saying she does not believe it to be lawful.
“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,” Yates said in her letter, according to The New York Times. “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.”
Yates went on to say, “For as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”
She was fired from her position hours later. The White House subsequently released a statement saying that Yates had betrayed the Department of Justice.
“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the White House said. “It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme.”
During her 2015 confirmation hearing, Sally Yates vowed that she would defy the president if he asked for something improper. The man questioning her on that was none other than Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
“Over the years, you have heard me say many times that I love the Department of Justice,” Sessions said in his opening statement. “The Office of the Attorney General of the United States is not a political position, and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the Constitution of the United States. He or she must be committed to following the law. He or she must be willing to tell the President “no” if he overreaches. He or she cannot be a mere rubberstamp.”
5. She Is Married & Has Two Children
Sally Yates’ husband is Comer Yates, a school administrator.
Yates’ husband Comer unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1996 as a centrist Democrat.
Sally and Comer Yates have two children: Kelley Malone Yates and James Quillian Yates.
Sally Yates also has a sister, Terre Quillian, who hosts a conservative radio show in Alabama. Although Sally Yates is a Democrat, her sister is a Republican and a Trump supporter. Still, Quillian was shocked when her sister was fired by President Donald Trump.
“I was really disappointed in President Trump, who I supported for president and that I still do support, but I was very disappointed in his response to Sally’s actions because to say that she disgraced the Justice Department,” Quillian said, according to WBRC. That’s absurd.”