Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified on Tuesday that she warned the Donald Trump administration on January 26 that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was compromised and could have been blackmailed by Russia. However, Trump took no action against Flynn until February 13, 18 days later — even allowing Flynn to take part in a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on January 28, two days after he knew that Flynn was potentially under Russian influence.
Flynn was finally forced to resign on February 13 — the same day that the warning by Yates to the Trump administration was reported publicly in the Washington Post.
However, Trump fired Yates on January 30, just four days after she informed his White House counsel, Donald McGahn, that Flynn had lied about whether he discussed United States sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak and potentially about other elements of his conversations with Russian officials.
Trump fired Yates after she refused to order federal enforcement of Trump’s travel ban against seven predominately Muslim countries.
Also on Tuesday, news reports revealed that not only did Yates warn the Trump administration about Flynn on January 26, less than a week after Trump’s inauguration, but President Barack Obama personally warned Trump about Flynn in a face-to-face meeting at the White House on November 10, 2016, just two days after Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.
Why did Trump go ahead and hire Flynn as National Security Adviser anyway, even after Obama directly warned him that Flynn may be under Russian influence? According to NBC News correspondent John Harwood, Trump believed that the warning was made “in jest.”
Yates testified that she met with McGahn after she realized that Vice President Mike Pence had made public statements repeating statements that Flynn had said to him — statement that were lies.
“We began our meeting telling him that there had been press accounts of statements from the Vice President and others that related to conduct that General Flynn had been involved in that we knew not to be the truth,” Yates testified. “The vice president was knowingly making false statements to the American public, and General Flynn was compromised by the Russians.”
Yates continued to say that the Russian government “likely had proof of this information and that created a compromise situation — a situation where the national security adviser could be blackmailed by the Russians. Finally we told them we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action.”
But the administration waited almost three weeks before taking action, and then only after the news of Yates’ warning became public knowledge via the Washington Post.
Obama appointed Yates to the second-highest post in the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General, in 2015. She was confirmed by the Senate by a lopsided 84-12 vote.
Before Trump’s own appointee as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, was confirmed earlier this year, Yates continued to serve under the new Trump administration as acting attorney general. But she remained in that post for only 10 days before Trump fired her — and it took her only six days to convey her warnings about Flynn to the administration.
Flynn had previously served as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but Obama fired him in 2014. Flynn’s high-level security clearance was renewed by the DIA in 2016. But according to an NBC News report on Tuesday, Flynn never told the DIA that he had received $34,000 from a Russian state-owned media outlet. Flynn’s security clearance was up for a routine five-year renewal at that time.
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