DOJ, Deputy Attorney General, President Trump discussed on The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg
What a privilege, which explain you should explain what precisely that means what does that job entail? Well, it's essentially the chief operating officer of the department of Justice. The attorney general, is obviously, the top law enforcement officer for the entire country. But the deputy attorney general access the CO for a department of a hundred and thirteen thousand employees, which includes not only all of the US attorney's offices across the country, all of the components at main Justice. But also, the law enforcement components as you well know from your time, though, that FBI and as. The head of DA. But includes FBI DA in the Marshall service and the bureau of prisons. So it's, it's a pretty big operation job. Yeah. Did you come to it with any ideas of what you would like to do? And I ask that because it tends to be a reactive job, Noor so many issues every day that land on your desk, and that require your immediate attention that even if you come with things you'd like to do that, sometimes hard to do, I did come with some ideas, because I was the last two years of the Obama administration. So maybe a had in some ways the luxury of deadline, I knew that we only had two years there. And I'm talking about us here being the office of the deputy attorney general Odette to leave at the end of that two years. And thank all we had done was really handle the emergencies the crises, and they're plenty of those, but the handle those things that came across our desk. And so I had some ideas of things I wanted to do, but also talked with people in DOJ. Both the assistant jeez, as well as folks on my staff about what are some things that you think need to be done here. How do we want to impact the department? So there's some things that are different when we leave they were when we walked in the door having worked for you. I remember well, your interest with me. With you, and for you, but I remember, well, your interest in sentencing reform in prison, reform, and also something that I'd like an I'd love to talk about any or all of these things. But I recall your interest in implicit bias, all of us carry around unconscious biases. It doesn't mean that you're a racist. It means that our brains have ways of making shortcuts and we associate individuals with groups and sometimes they're avert biases here. I'm not to say that, that there aren't those things as well. But this unconscious bias seeps into how we make decisions. That's bad enough for regular people out there. But if you're in law enforcement, or you're a prosecutor and you have an unconscious bias that is impacting how you're making those decisions those decisions that can impact people's liberty. That's something we need to do something about. So what did you want to do wanted to train people, you know, we had learned. That there is training that law enforcement officers and prosecutors around the country on the state level had been involved in and that it can. At least I'm not gonna pretend that this fixes it, you can say check, you know, that's not a problem anymore, but it at least trains, people and alerts them to the biases that they're carrying with them and gets people, some tools to try to address it. And also, I think it's important that the department is acknowledging that this is an issue that it's an issue. We need to try to combat and we have a responsibility to do something about. I think you're right Sally being aware of it is better than not being aware of it, and whether or not it's sort of changes behavior makes people more sensitive to it. That's still valuable. Oh, absolutely. And, you know, again, this is not something that you're gonna fix with a little training course here. But at you not know that a lot of people came into this somewhat skeptically. But I think from the feedback that we got when people actually went through the. Raining, it opened their eyes to things that they didn't really realize that they were doing that was my sense to that people were somewhere between skeptical and oppressive up when they had the training, it opened up there is that's the goal. And look you were key among those who did some of this at the beginning. I think we needed to adjust along the way in terms of how to most effectively train law enforcement officers and prosecutors in ways that will be practical for them as well. And so I don't think you can just sort of take training and say, this is going to be it, you need to be willing to adapt to how it's going to make it more effective, and more useful. I'm glad you did that. Thank you. Thank you for that. And thank you for participating in it. You bet. So another thing near and dear to your heart was prison reform. Absolutely. This actually started back when I was she was attorney, and we had started a program, there were, we were going to connect service providers with people who are coming out of state prisons at that time. And to our most Challe. Hinging neighborhoods. And so we had a program that we started actually at the Lindsey street Baptist church. They are an English avenue in Atlanta, and we had different service providers of housing and jobs and drug treatment and others that were there. And we had a form for the folks that were coming out of prison to fill out of what services that they needed, what was so striking to me is when we're getting a lot of those forms back at the first meeting and a couldn't figure out why. So I went and sat down next to gentlemen on a church pew there and asked him why we haven't gotten there forms. And they of didn't really answer. Then one quietly leaned over to me and said, I can't read, and I realized that there were a lot of folks in that room that couldn't read they weren't going to raise their hands. You know, that's humiliating for them to have to tell us that they can't read so that really spawned my interest to want to find out. What are we doing to ensure that the people when they are in prison that we are giving them those basic tools that they need? To be able to be successful things like being able to read the drug treatment that they need the basic job training for jobs that will actually exist, when they get out of prison anger management, those things that are really absolutely essential for them to have just a fighting shot at being successful. When they get on the intro to move Sally, because we talked earlier, about stigma, whether it was mental health or addiction illiteracy is another type of stigma, my husband, who's a lawyer, actually, we both medications balding, but he missed the head of a school for children with learning disabilities, and who are deaf and hard of hearing, but they also have a teacher training institute for children who come from poverty, and particularly generational lack of access to education. And so I was very attuned. The literacy issues there as well and the kind of, impact that, that can have on people's lives for the rest of their lives. And so what to do ask the Federal Bureau of prisons to do, so we didn't have a lot of time. So we had some consultants come in and we look. At a whole variety of things. We looked at education. We looked at the job training that we were doing importantly, the halfway houses and the kind of services that were being provided there. And on the education side, we began a system there, a sensually building a school district within the Federal Bureau of prisons that would I assess each individual, when he or she is coming in to the federal prison system to find out where they are in that educational continuum is this somebody who could benefit from post-secondary, or is this someone we need to teach to read, or do they need to be able to get a high school diploma that would I assess them and then be able to tailor the educational things that were provided to them to what their needs were, and we had started a pilot project actually through tablets, essentially, rugged ipads that could be used in their cells. Because, you know, at the time really all that existed in the bureau prisons for the most part. Was a GED prep. Course it was a waiting list, thousands, and thousands of inmates long to be able to get into that GED print course if you were lucky enough for that. All you got was an hour, a day of education. What I found was is that in symptoms are good. And all, but we didn't have an issue with incentivizing individuals in prison to want to participate in. They, they were they were begging to get into these programs. We just didn't have the resources to provide the services. And so with the declining prison population as we were adjusting drug sentencing there we were able to essentially reprogram some of that money into the educational services because the truth is Sally that the overwhelming percentage of people who go to prison reenter society, like ninety five percent. We don't want them to go back. You can look at it from various different perspectives. But this is one of the smart. Just things that we can do from public safety standpoint. We know recidivism rights are now about sixty six percent. We know that those drop dramatically if an individual is able to engage a meaningful education programs, and even more than that, if I'm top of that they have meaningful job training programs. And so it's not just doing something nice for people who were imprisoned. It's the smartest thing we can do to make our communities more safe toward the end of the Obama administration. The attorney general Loretta Lynch, your direct boss resigned, President Trump sworn into office and his nominee for attorney general Jeff Sessions has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. And so for two hundred and forty hours for ten days. Sally Yates, you're the acting attorney general of the United States. Yeah. Well, there's a tradition at the department of Justice that the deputy attorney general stays on as the. Acting AG during a transition and unites important check in any agency for there to be continuity. But given the national security and the law enforcement responsibilities DJ, it's particularly important. And so our colder had done it when he served as Dag between the Clinton and Bush administration. So I was happy to do it during this time as well. When you spoke at Harvard Law School in two thousand seventeen out its class day exercises. You said the defining moments in our lives often don't come with advance warning during your ten days as acting attorney general President Trump issued an executive order one three seven six nine which restricted travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Can you talk about that a little bit? Yes. I mean this was entirely unexpected. There's this tradition that I just mentioned. But there's another tradition to, and that is that nothing happens during this time on that you're serving is the acting attorney general. And so I was actually leaving the white. House, the afternoon of the twenty seven after having been there talking with them about the situation with general Flynn and ambassador Kislyak and learned from principal deputy from a phone call. Because he read on the New York Times website that the president had signed this travel ban that we didn't know anything about there had been no inter agency process that you would normally have to try to figure out what it is the administration's trying to accomplish and how you could go about doing that. So what to do? Well, we spent the weekend actually trying to get our arms around what it was. They were trying to accomplish this was travel ban. One were on travel ban three now but travel ban one actually applied to people, for example, who had valid visas, and who were lawful permanent residents in our country. And so we had lawyers who had to be in court that next morning, Saturday morning to enforce the president's executive order, right? Because they were people who are literally in the air as the president signed this executive order that then were being turned away from the country when they landed here. So we spent the weekend, lots of discussions with the White House, trying to, again, sort of figure out who's in and who's out because it was not clear at all from the face of this executive order. What that was, and then on Monday morning. I learned that, that on Tuesday morning. The judge wanted the position of the department of Justice on the constitutionality and the lawfulness of this executive order amounts, your responsibility. Right. What was your view on its constitutionality? Well, I had been over the weekend and through that Monday morning, reading, all of the challenges going on and reading the cases, I mean, Chuck, you know, from your experience at DOJ normally for something by the time it gets to the deputy attorney general, even the enacting AJ, lots of people have reviewed it, and distilled it. There's no time for any of that. You know, we're just having to read the raw information. And so I wanted to hear from the people in the department both the career people and the Trump appointees about what those challenges were, and how we would defend this challenges. I wanted to hear their views as well. So call them all into the conference room, we have a big meeting, and we start going through the challenges in what our position would have to be on these assume to you that the -secutive order of the president's was motivated by religious animus against Muslims. And that's what became really clear to me as that to defend this hour's gonna have to send department of Justice lawyers into court to take the position that this executive order, had absolutely nothing to do with religion. And that's despite all the statements that the president of made not just on the campaign trail. But statements, he had made after that as well after he was. Elected. And that was in the face at the fact that this only applaud to Muslim-majority countries. But yet provided priority for Christians in this instance to, to send them in to advance a pretext and I don't think any lawyer should do that. And I sure don't think that department of Justice lawyer, should here's the fascinating thing to me. Traditionally if a senior officials put in that position they have a binary choice to enforce the law as the president has promulgated it or to resign. And I know you Wade, both of those options, but you came up with a third way a middle way. I did struggle..