Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates broke her silence Monday, detailing her role inside the ousting of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Her testimony, prior to Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, came amid a number of investigations into Russia’s meddling inside 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
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Below are highlights from your hearing, which also included testimony from former Director of National Intelligence James clapper.
Yates says Flynn was susceptible to blackmail
Yates at last publicly detailed her efforts to alert the White House that Flynn was potentially vunerable to Russian blackmail.
She told senators she held a celebration Jan. 26 with White House counsel Don McGahn whereby she put forth the evidence that Flynn had misled V . p . Mike Pence and various senior officials with regards to the nature of his calls with Russia’s ambassador.
“To state the well known items, you don’t need your national security adviser compromised together with the Russians,” Yates said, explaining that the Russians knew Flynn had misled Pence and may even potentially take advantage of this to blackmail him.
Flynn has not been fired until Feb. 13, after it had become public that they misled Pence. Democrats examine the 18-day gap between Yates’ warnings and Flynn’s firing as evidence the White House would not make concerns seriously.
Yates’ own firing creates some awkward moments
As Yates discussed her efforts to see the White House that Flynn was compromised, her story visited a sudden end. She can’t say how it happened after Jan. 30 – the morning she herself was fired by Trump after she refused to safeguard Trump’s first travel ban executive order essential.
Asked multiple times precisely the White House reacted to her warnings about Flynn, Yates said she couldn’t know. “I wasn’t longer with DOJ following the 30th,” she said.
Yates discovered travel ban in the media
Yates said she met with McGahn a similar afternoon the administration released its executive order targeting citizens from the 3 Muslim-majority countries, but had not been told about that right at that moment.
“I learned all about this from media reports,” she told the subcommittee in the Jan. 30 meeting, which become her last holiday to the Justice Department.
Yates’ comment came after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pointedly asked why she went up against the Justice Department’s prestigious Office of Attorney, which found the chief order to be lawful on Jan. 27.
"Within the over Two centuries of the Department of Justice history, understand any instance when the Department of Justice has formerly approved the legality of a policy and 3 days later the attorney general has directed the department to never follow that policy and also to defy that policy?" Cruz asked.
Yates said she wasn’t but added they was not aware of any instance where the counsel was advised “not to tell” the nation’s top police official about this sort of action until after it had become over.
She also strongly defended her decision and reiterated she viewed the chief order, that is blocked from the courts, as unlawful.
“I did my job the most effective way I knew how,” she said. “I looked at this EO, I viewed this law, I talked while using the folks on the Department of Justice, gathered each of them to have their views along with their input, we did my job.”
Clapper wasn’t mindful of the FBI’s investigation into Trump
Clapper told lawmakers they was unaware the FBI had launched an analysis into possible collusion amongst the Trump campaign and Russian officials last summer.
He noted “the unique position from the FBI” between intelligence and the police. “As a consequence, I wasn’t alert to the counterintelligence investigation Director Comey first referred to during his testimony prior to when the House Intelligence Committee on March 20th, knowning that comports with my public statements.”
Subcommittee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) used his time to ask how Clapper couldn’t have been aware of your research if he approved the intelligence community’s January assessment on Russian meddling, wondering in case the reason happens because the inquiry wasn’t “mature enough.”
“That’s possible,” Clapper replied. He speculated that another excuse your research didn’t reach him may be the evidence gathered compared to that point wasn’t conclusive enough.
Clapper and Yates denied being anonymous sources on Trump and Russia
Asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, whether either had “ever been an anonymous source inside of a news report about matters relating to Mr. Trump, his associates or Russia’s attempt on meddle in the election,” both Clapper and Yates denied doing so.
“No,” Clapper said.
“Absolutely not,” answered Yates.
Both also denied authorizing others of their respective agencies to become anonymous sources such stories.
Earlier within the day on Twitter, Trump had urged the committee to question Yates “under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers shortly afterwards she explained it to W.H. Counsel.”
U.S. intelligence was told about possible Trump-Russia ties by allies, Clapper says
Clapper confirmed media reports that the British along with European allies passed along information to U.S. intelligence agencies in 2016 of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials.
“Yes, it’s plus its quite sensitive,” Clapper said around the accuracy in the reports in response to questions from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat.
“The specifics can be sensitive,” Clapper added
He revealed that there was clearly evidence of Russian digital snooping rediscovering the reassurance of 2015 but that this activity was mainly “information gathering,” including viewing voter registrations comes around the continent.
Franken speculates on Trump’s motivations – and gets a laugh
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) devoted component of his time and energy to ruminating on why it took Trump 18 days to fireside Flynn after learning that they had misled Pence. But Yates wasn’t keen to speculate.
“We’re trying put a puzzle together here, everybody,” Franken told the space. “And maybe, just maybe, he didn’t dispose of a guy who lied towards the vice chairman, who got paid through the Russians, who continued Russia Today, since there are others as part of his administration who met secretly together with the Russians and didn’t reveal it til later, until they had been caught. Which may be why it took him 18 days, until it became public, to reduce Mike Flynn, who had previously been some risk to the republic.”
He then asked Yates, “Care to comment?” Your room erupted in laughter, realizing that she would quit desirous to leave her with opinion on Trump’s motivations.
“I do not believe I will touch that, senator,” she said.
Ted Cruz inquired on the Clinton email scandal
Cruz devoted a lot of his first inquiries to the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s using of a person email server as secretary of State.
Without naming them, Cruz described Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s practice of forwarding e-mails with the server to her husband, Anthony Weiner, and asked Clapper what concerns that behavior might raise.
“It raises lots of potential security concerns,” Clapper said as a result to Cruz’s hypothetical.