Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates said Monday she alerted the White House just days after the inauguration of the “compromised situation” of former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, warning that the Russians had ammunition to blackmail him.
Testifying before a Senate judiciary subcommittee alongside former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Yates described a January 26 meeting with White House counsel Donald McGahn.
“We began our meeting telling him that there had been press accounts of statements from the vice president and others that related conduct that Mr. Flynn had been involved in that we knew not to be the truth,” Yates said.
Shortly after President Trump was elected and Flynn was announced as national security adviser, Flynn discussed lifting sanctions with the Russian ambassador. He misled Vice President Pence about those discussions, and Pence relayed his assurances to the public.
In her meeting with McGahn, Yates said she told him “that the underlying conduct that Mr. Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” and that she was partially motivated by the knowledge that Pence was unknowingly repeating false information fed to him by Flynn.
“We told him the third reason was because we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what Gen. Flynn had done,” Yates said. “And additionally, that we weren’t the only ones that knew about all this, that the Russians also knew about what Gen. Flynn had done, and the Russians also knew that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others. Because in the media accounts it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what Gen. Flynn had told them.”
“And that this was a problem, because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromised situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”
Yates said McGahn asked her whether Flynn should be fired. While she said she told him “that wasn’t really our call,” she said she emphasized “we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action they deemed appropriate.”
Yates, the deputy under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, became the acting attorney general at the outset of the Trump administration. She was fired after issuing a memo to Department of Justice staff not to defend Trump’s executive order denying entry to the United States for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.
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