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Sally Yates: Trump administration behavior 'should be alarming to us as a country'

Sally Yates: Trump administration behavior 'should be alarming to us as a country'
© Greg Nash

Former Acting Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder MORE slammed the Trump administration on Tuesday for ignoring legal and political norms, arguing that concerns about President TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' MORE's conduct should go much deeper than whether he committed an impeachable offense.

“Surely [criminality is] not our bar. That’s not the standard of conduct that we’re looking for from our president or our administration," she said in a sweeping panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

"I mean, It shouldn’t just be whether you’ve committed a felony or not. It should also be whether or not you’re observing the kinds of norms that we’ve been talking about here today.”

Yates said that she had "total confidence" in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE, who was appointed in May to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into Russian election meddling, possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin and the circumstances around the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

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But Mueller's primary responsibility is to look into possible criminal conduct that could be used for prosecution, she said, and does not include scrutiny of less serious examples of troubling behavior by administration officials.

"There are facts here that should be alarming to us as a country that falls short of facts that would establish a basis for impeachment or for prosecution," Yates said.

Yates was abruptly fired in January, after she announced that the Justice Department would not defend Trump's first travel ban, which would have barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

She argued at the time that she believed the measure was unconstitutional and rooted in religious discrimination. 

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a limited version of Trump’s second iteration of the travel ban can partially take effect. The decision allows the administration to block travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, while halting entry for all refugees for 120 days.

In the Tuesday panel discussion, Yates also criticized what she called a "toxic swirl" of false and inaccurate statements driving political dialogue in the U.S. and voiced concern over increasing criticism from the right of Mueller.

"I know Bob Mueller, and folks ought to have tremendous confidence in him," Yates said. "I mean, he is just the consummate professional. He’s going to call it like he sees it. He’s going to do this the right way."

Mueller has faced accusations from some Trump allies in recent weeks that he is politicizing the Russia investigation. Some have argued that his relationship with Comey and his hiring of investigators with histories of donating to Democratic political campaign could compromise his probe.