Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn became a potential blackmail target, after compromising himself when he told Veep Mike Pence things that were not true, which Pence began repeating to the American public, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said told a Senate judiciary committee Monday.
Speaking publicly about Flynn for the first time, Yates told the Senate judiciary committee press she had requested a meeting with President Donald Trump
’s White House counsel Donald McGahn on January 26, to warn of Michael Flynn’s lies about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.
Yates said she did so because she feared Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia, and she felt Pence was entitled to know the information he was conveying to the American public was not true. She said she felt the administration should know all this so as to have the opportunity to “take action.”
“We believed that Gen Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians,” she testified to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, for its investigation of Russian interference in last fall’s presidential election.
“We weren’t the only ones that knew all of this. The Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.”
Yates testified that, in the course of several meetings on the subject with McGahn before her exit, she got asked, “What does it matter if one White House official lies to another?”
While testifying Monday, Yates indicated she had not thought the White House would sit on the information she gave to McGahn, she said, had asked if the White House could review the DOJ evidence, which she arranged to make available. She said she did not know if that happened, because she was fired as acting AG, after she instructed the DOJ not to defend Trump’s first travel ban.
Flynn was not told to resign until 18 days after Yates met with the White House, but it happened very quickly after WaPo began reporting on Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador. Yates, and Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who also testified to the committee, both got asked if they had ever been an anonymous source to a reporter. Both said they had not. That’s noteworthy because, earlier Monday, Trump tweeted a thinly veiled suggestion Yates was the leaker:
Flynn told Vice President-elect Mike Pence, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia over its interference in the 2016 presidential election in his communication with the Russian ambassador. Upon leaving office, Flynn said in a statement that “because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.”
Flynn’s undoing was set in motion when Russian ruler Vladimir Putin said Russia would not retaliate for sanctions Obama’s administration imposed in December. That head-scratcher set intelligence analysts searching for an explanation.
“The search turned up [Ambassador Sergey] Kislyak’s communications, which the FBI routinely monitors, and the phone call in question with Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general with years of intelligence experience,” WaPo had reported.
From that call and subsequent intercepts, FBI agents wrote a secret report summarizing Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak. Yates considered Flynn’s comments in the intercepted call to be “potentially illegal,” the paper reported.
Since then, documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee suggest Flynn also was paid tens of thousands of dollars by three Russian companies, including the state-sponsored network RT, for speeches he made shortly before he became a formal adviser to Trump’s campaign.