Sally Yates was a “political opponent” of Donald Trump who, as acting attorney general, did a lousy job warning the Trump White House about Flynn’s potential as a Russian blackmail target, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
The White House’s immediate reaction to Yates’ meeting with its counsel was to wonder why this political operative was approaching them about Flynn, Spicer said the day after Yates testified before a Senate committee that she had gone to the White House to deliver a strongly worded warning about Flynn’s vulnerability.
Trump’s administration was dubious when Yates approached the White House counsel in January, Spicer said, because she was “widely rumored” to be a “strong supporter” of Hillary Clinton. Yates’ decision not to defend Trump’s first travel ban vindicates that mistrust of her motives, the press secretary insisted – as well as its decision not to inform her of the travel ban before it was started. Yates testified Monday she learned of the travel ban by reading about it in the news media.
In the nearly three weeks that passed between finding out Flynn misled the Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. and Flynn’s resignation, Spicer said, there were no known restrictions to his access to information. That’s because the White House wanted to make sure “we were doing the right thing.” Spicer also said the reason Yates was asked to return to the White House the day after she met with its counsel is because she had done an inadequate job in that first meeting.
Asked why Trump continues to defend Flynn after giving him the hook, Spicer said the retired lieutenant general served the U.S. honorably for more than 30 years and was asked for his resignation because he “misinformed” Pence, but beyond that he had an honorable career, served with distinction and Trump did “not want to smear a good man.”
Yates, meanwhile, was described as someone who is not a supporter of the president’s agenda and who, a few days after giving the White House a Flynn red flag, “refused to uphold a lawful order” of Trump’s, aka Travel Ban 1. Spicer described her visit to the White House to warn of Flynn as a “heads-up.” Asked why it took the White House 18 days to jettison Flynn, Spicer, said. “Just because someone gives you a heads-up does not mean you immediately jump the gun and take action.”
Spicer insisted that Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation because he misinformed Pence – not because of Yates’ warnings.