Tag Archives: trump administration won’t defend daca


In 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would not defend the federal government in lawsuits seeking to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act (often referred to as DOMA).  Republicans, needless to say, were not happy.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich complained that “The president is replacing the rule of law with the rule of Obama.  The president swore an oath on the Bible to ensure that the laws be faithfully executed, not to decide which laws are and which are not constitutional.”  U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described the Obama administration decision as the”politicization of the Justice Department – when the personal views of the president override the government’s duty to defend the law of the land.”  Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator and now Attorney General, said that “[T]he Attorney General should have told the President, ‘I know you may have changed your mind, Mr. President, but this is a statutory law passed by the Congress of the United States, it’s been upheld Constitutionally and it has to be defended.”

And there were others – like Senator Orrin Hatch, who explained that “I know that if President Obama had his druthers, DOMA would not exist.  But the Justice Department’s duty is, thankfully, not defined by the President’s druthers.  Its duty is to make reasonable arguments in defense of a statute.”

Mitt Romney said that “[President Obama] has an obligation as chief executive to enforce and defend the laws of the nation. He should not abdicate that responsibility based on his own interpretations and personal views.”

So clearly, Republican felt pretty strongly about this:  if it’s a law, the Attorney General must defend it –  regardless of what the Attorney General thinks about the law.

Shortly after taking office last year, President Trump fired Sally Yates, who at the time was acting U.S. Attorney General, when she ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s new travel ban (that was eventually overturned by the courts).  Former Attorney General (from the administration of George H.W. Bush) William Barr said that “while an official is always free to resign if she does not agree with, or has doubts about, the legality of a presidential order, Yates had no authority and no conceivable justification for directing the department’s lawyers not to advocate the president’s position in court. Her action was unprecedented and must go down as a serious abuse of office.” Stephen Miller, one of the Trump administration’s top henchman, declared that “It’s sad that our politics have become so politicized, that you have people refusing to enforce our laws.”  Trump himself accused Yates of “of having “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

So we seem to have a pattern here:  Republicans believe that if it’s the law, whether passed by Congress or stated as part of a presidential executive order, the Attorney General’s job isn’t to question whether it’s a good or bad idea:  it’s to enforce the law.

Or do they?

Well, you have to wonder, considering that the Trump administration announced last week that it will not defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law, often referred to as DACA or “the dreamers law,” which was passed by Congress and signed by a president?  CNN explained that “The DOJ [Department of Justice) argued in a legal filing late Friday that the DACA policy is unlawful and is “an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws.”  The Washington Timesreported that “The Trump administration told a federal judge late Friday that it won’t defend the legality of the Obama-era DACA amnesty…”

And then, just to prove this wasn’t a one-time lapse into making unilateral decisions about what is or isn’t legal, the Trump administration announced that the Justice Department would not defend the federal government in lawsuits involving selected provisions of the Affordable Care Act (widely referred to as Obamacare).  The Washington Post reported that

The Trump administration said Thursday night that it will not defend the Affordable Care Act against the latest legal challenge to its constitutionality – a dramatic break from the executive branch’s tradition of arguing to uphold existing statutes and a land mine for health insurance changes the ACA brought about.

 In a brief filed in a Texas federal court and an accompanying letter to the House and Senate leaders of both parties, the Justice Department agrees in large part with the 20 Republican-led states that brought the suit. They contend that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance soon will no longer be constitutional and that, as a result, consumer insurance protections under the law will not be valid, either.

 So what’s it going to be, Republicans?  When you weren’t in power, you were outraged when the Democrats in power chose to exercise judgment over which laws the administration would and wouldn’t defend.  Now that you’re in power, though, your attitude seems to be “The hell with the law, it’s our judgment that matters, not what the law says.”

The hypocrisy is overwhelming and, in this case, is accompanied by yet another sign that this president thinks he’s free to act like a dictator.