It is a big day in federal legal circles, with a high profile departure from the Justice Department. Last night, President Trump fired the acting attorney general for refusing to defend his executive orders instituting a 90 day travel ban from seven majority Muslim countries and indefinitely suspending the relocation of Syrian refugees. Sally Yates is an Obama appointee who had been the acting attorney general while the senate confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions played out. Yates instructed judiciary employees not to enforce Trump's executive order, believing it didn't pass constitutional muster. Some Democrats are comparing Yates sudden termination to President Nixon's so-called 'Saturday Night massacre,’ when he fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general after they ignored his instructions to get rid of a special prosecutor during Watergate. The Trump administration says Yates “betrayed” the Justice Department by refusing to defend the ban.
In addition, the country is awaiting a decision with the potential to influence just about every aspect of American life for decades to come – President Trump's nomination to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS justices are appointed for life and while tonight's nominee will replace a conservative, two of the older justices are liberal. Bader Ginsberg is now 83, Justice Stephen Breyer is 78 and Justice Anthony Kennedy – a swing vote for liberals on abortion and affirmative action – is 80 years old. There are reportedly two leading candidates. Massachusetts native Thomas Hardiman, currently an appeals court judge in Philadelphia, was raised in Waltham. He is a big advocate of gun rights and would be the only justice who did not attend an Ivy League school. Neil Gorsuch is an appeals court judge based in Denver, who earned his law degree at Harvard. As an Appeals Court judge, Gorsuch wrote an opinion in favor of Hobby Lobby’s refusal to provide employees with health insurance for contraceptives. Jim Braude (@jimbraude) talks with retired federal judge Nancy Gertner (@ngertner) and former solicitor general under President Reagan, Charles Fried – both professors at Harvard Law School - to get their perspectives on the two frontrunners and the effects President Trump could have on the future of the Court, as well as on the judicial drama and the legality of the president’s executive order.