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Sally Yates just testified for the first time about her now-legendary refusal to defend Trump's travel ban — and, predictably, she didn't come to play around.

Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images.

In the key exchange, the former acting-attorney general calmly explained to Sen. John Cornyn why she refused to defend what she called an "unlawful" executive order.

She couldn't, in good conscious, she said, send Department of Justice attorneys in to lie on the administration's behalf about what the purpose of the executive order really was: an attempt to discriminate against Muslims.


SALLY YATES: All arguments have to be based on truth because we're the Department of Justice. We're not just a law firm. We're the Department of Justice.
CORNYN: Do you distinguish the truth from lawful?
YATES: Yes, because in this instance, in looking at what the intent was of the executive order, which was derived in part from an analysis of facts outside the face of the order, that is part of what led to our conclusion that it was not lawful.

The outside facts Yates considered in making her decision were public statements made by officials involved with the drafting of the order — statements that contradicted the administration's assertion that the order was not intentionally discriminatory.

Though Yates didn't clarify which statements she was referring to, possible candidates include President Trump's call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" and campaign advisor Rudy Giuliani's admission that, following the election, Trump had asked him about instituting a Muslim travel ban — specifically "how to do it legally."

Basically, Yates believed that Trump's insistence that the order wasn't a Muslim ban was BS and felt it would be unprofessional to argue that BS in court.

"I believed that any argument that we would have to make in its defense would not be grounded in the truth," she said, bluntly, later in the May 8, 2017, hearing.

Yates metaphorically dunking on her Senate critics was more than satisfying to watch — it was a model of principled resistance.

The former Justice Department official drove her point home by clarifying her belief that following orders, even compelling ones, is less important than sticking up for the truth — no matter what the professional consequences might be.

Image via C-SPAN3.

"I looked at this, I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful," Yates said of the executive order. "I also thought that it was inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice. And I said no. And that's what I promised you I would do, and that's what I did."

In the end, by refusing to defend an order she felt was unlawful, Yates didn't just do the right thing.

"I did my job," she explained. Thankfully, someone did.

10/10. The Mayyas dance.

We can almost always expect to see amazing acts and rare skills on “America’s Got Talent.” But sometimes, we get even more than that.

The Mayyas, a Lebanese women’s dance troupe whose name means “proud walk of a lioness,” delivered a performance so mesmerizing that judge Simon Cowell called it the “best dance act” the show has ever seen, winning them an almost instant golden buzzer.

Perhaps this victory comes as no surprise, considering that the Mayyas had previously won “Arab’s Got Talent” in 2019 and competed on “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions.” But truly, it’s what motivates them to take to the stage that’s remarkable.

“Lebanon is a very beautiful country, but we live a daily struggle," one of the dancers said to the judges just moments before their audition. Another explained, “being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported yet.”

Nadim Cherfan, the team’s choreographer, added that “Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing, so it’s really hard, and harder for women.”

Still, Cherfan shared that it was a previous “AGT” star who inspired the Mayyas to defy the odds and audition anyway. Nightbirde, a breakout singer who also earned a golden buzzer before tragically passing away in February 2021 due to cancer, had told the audience, “You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” The dance team took the advice to heart.

For the Mayyas, coming onto the “AGT” stage became more than an audition opportunity. Getting emotional, one of the dancers declared that it was “our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do, the art we can create, the fights we fight.”

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