Yates tells states to step up criminal justice reform in Trump era
© Getty Images

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates pressed states on Wednesday to be leaders on criminal justice reform during the Trump era. 

“We’re all calling on you, our state and local leaders, to be our banner on this [criminal justice reform]," Yates told law enforcement leaders at the National Law Enforcement Summit on Crime in Washington, D.C.

Yates also encouraged law enforcement leaders to "hopefully persuade" President Trump and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand MORE on the issue of criminal justice reform. 

The former acting attorney general pushed back on the Trump administration's tough approach to law enforcement, which has included ordering federal prosecutors to “pursue the most serious, readily provable" offenses that by definition carry the most substantial sentences, including mandatory minimums.

“We cannot jail our way into safe communities," Yates said. 

Yates' comments come as Sessions testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

Sessions was grilled by Democrats on the committee, who sent him a letter last week asking him to answer "fully and truthfully" and urging him not to assert executive privilege on questions.

This is not the first time Yates has pushed back on the Trump administration. 

Yates penned an op-ed in The New York Times last July, accusing Trump of "attempting to dismantle the rule of law, destroy the time-honored independence of the Justice Department, and undermine the career men and women who are devoted to seeking justice day in and day out."

The former acting attorney general was fired by the White House shortly after Trump took office in January for refusing to have the Justice Department defend Trump's initial travel ban.