It took less than a week in the new Trump presidential administration for the then acting attorney general to rush to the White House with a crucial concern. Sally Q. Yates told the new president that his national security advisor, Michael T. Flynn, had lied to the vice president about his Russian contacts and was vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow. Yates told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Monday, “We wanted to tell the White House as quickly as possible, to state the obvious: You don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.”
Yates was fired soon after her warning about Flynn because she refused to implement President Trump’s temporary travel ban. The one question that she couldn’t give a clear answer to at the Senate subcommittee was why Michael Flynn remained in his job for 18 more days after the administration learned of his vulnerability with Russia. It was only after the news of his false statements broke publicly that he lost his job on February 13th.
Sally Yates not only delivered her personal testimony of warning to the Trump team, but she also testified that President Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn, raising new doubts about the president’s judgment in keeping Flynn in place despite serious Justice Department concerns.
At the heart of the Flynn, controversy is that he denied discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey I. Kislyak. Senior F.B.I. Officials have proven otherwise through routine surveillance. They have proof that Flynn, in fact, did discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Yates shared the danger in Russia being aware that Flynn lied to the vice president. She said that intelligence services constantly look for leverage against foreign officials and that Moscow could use it against Flynn for their purposes. James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, testified alongside Yates. He said, “This is a classic technique they would use going back to the Soviet era.” Both Clapper and Yates made it very clear that Russian officials could easily blackmail Flynn.
In her testimony, Sally Yates sidestepped questions regarding actual collusion between the Trump administration and Russia; and Clapper testified that he had seen no evidence of collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign.
Two of the big takeaways from the Yates testimony center around why Flynn was hired in the first place in the midst of warnings from Yates, Obama and even Chris Christie who was heading the transition team; and why he was not fired sooner. What are your thoughts about the new information from this Senate subcommittee hearing?
Credit: New York Times