“We believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians”

Developments on Day 109 of the Trump Administration:

Yates: Flynn Left Trump Administration Open to Russian Blackmail

Testifying in open session before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates says the Trump Administration left itself open to Moscow’s blackmail over National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the US.

Yates said she explicitly warned White House counsel Donald McGahn in January, soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration, that Flynn was compromised over five telephone conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on December 29.

On that day, President Barack Obama had imposed new sanctions on Moscow over Russia’s intervention in the 2016 Presidential election.

But despite Yates’ warning, the Administration left Flynn in his post for 18 days, only acting after The Washington Post reported he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the calls.

Yates said she contacted

Yates said on Monday:

The Vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public and…we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians. We felt like the Vice President and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn’t true.

Yates’ testimony, along with that of former Director of National James Clapper, left open the question of whether Flynn was protected because other officials in the Trump campaign and/or administration knew about his calls to Kislyak — and were involved in making them.

Trump responded in frustration in a series of tweets:

But the ongoing significance of the Flynn story was reinforced with the revelation that President Obama had warned Trump on November 10 — two days after the election — not to hire Flynn.

Flynn was dismissed in 2014 as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency over doubts about his management, exaggerated statements, and temperament, including handling of classified information. Subsequently his consultancy took more than $55,000 from Russian State interests and more than $550,000 from a Turkish lobbyist with links to the Kremlin. The payments were not disclosed until after the general was dismissed as National Security Advisor.

Trump and White House spokesman Sean Spicer tried to dismiss the development with the claim that “General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration”, ignoring Flynn’s dismissal and Obama’s warning. It also has emerged that Flynn was not vetted completely by the incoming Trump team before taking up his post in the Administration.

Despite doubts by Chris Christie, who briefly headed the Trump transition, the President and his advisors proceeded with the appointment. And even though White House Counsel Donald McGahn discussed with Yates whether Flynn could be prosecuted for his behavior, the National Security Advisor remained in his post for more than two weeks.

White House Counsel: “Why Does It Matter if One White House Official Lies to Another?”

A day after Flynn was interviewed the Flynn, Yates said she called the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, on January 26 about “a very sensitive matter” that they could discuss only in person. Later that day, she warned McGahn that White House officials were making statements “that we knew not to be the truth”. She explained to McGahn how she knew Flynn’s statements to the FBI were untrue.

“Why does it matter to D.O.J. [the Department of Justice] if one White House official lies to another White House official?” McGahn asked at a second meeting the next day, according to Yates.

Director of National Intelligence Clapper confirmed that Flynn’s conversation gave the Russians leverage: “This is a classic technique they would use going back to the Soviet era.”

Clapper said Monday that he was unaware of the investigation into the Trump campaign and possible Russian ties until FBI Director James Comey acknowledged the inquiry into “coordination” before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20.

The statement explained why Clapper has previously said that he was not aware of any intelligence on Trump-Russia links.

However, the Director of National Intelligence was firm on Monday in his summary of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia pursued a “multi-faceted” campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Activists included the hacking of both political parties, including the computers of the Democratic National Committee. Materials on the Democrats was given to WikiLeaks, while material on the GOP was withheld.

Clapper said the assessment concluded that the operations were to give “an advantage to Mr. Trump”. He assessed:

Russia must be congratulating themselves for having exceeded their wildest expectations with a minimal expenditure of resource. And I believe they are now emboldened to continue such activities in the future, both here and around the world, and to do so even more intensely.

If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it.

Yates: Trump’s “Muslim Ban” Illegal

Yates also knocked back another central element of Trump’s first months in office, the “Muslim Ban” on entry into the US by refugees and by citizens of seven mainly-Muslim countries.

The Attorney General stood by her position, which led to her dismissal in late January, that the ban could not be defended as legal — a stance vindicated by court rejection of two versions of the executive order.

She stood firm in questioning by Senator Ted Cruz on Monday: