White House warned about Flynn: Yates


WASH­ING­TON — For­mer act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral Sally Yates, speak­ing pub­licly for the first time about con­cerns she brought to the Trump White House on Rus­sia, told Congress on Mon­day she warned that Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn “es­sen­tially could be black­mailed” be­cause he ap­par­ently had lied to his bosses about his con­tacts with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador.

The state­ments from Yates, an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion holdover, of­fered by far the most de­tailed ac­count of the chain of events that led to Flynn’s ouster from gov­ern­ment in the first weeks of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Yates, ap­pear­ing be­fore a Se­nate panel in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, de­scribed dis­cus­sions with Trump White House Coun­sel Don McGahn in late Jan­uary in which she warned that Flynn ap­par­ently had mis­led the ad­min­is­tra­tion about his com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Sergey Kislyak, the Rus­sian am­bas­sador.

White House of­fi­cials had in­sisted that Flynn had not dis­cussed U.S.-im­posed sanc­tions with Kislyak dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion pe­riod, but asked Flynn to re­sign af­ter news re­ports in­di­cated he had mis­led them about the na­ture of the calls.

“We felt like it was crit­i­cal that we get this in­for­ma­tion to the White House, in part be­cause the vi­cepres­i­dent was mak­ing false state­ments to the pub­lic and be­cause we be­lieved that Gen. Flynn was pos­si­bly com­pro­mised,” Yates said.

“We knew that was not a good sit­u­a­tion, which is why we wanted to let the White House know about it.”

The Jan. 26 con­ver­sa­tion took place two days af­ter the FBI in­ter­viewed Flynn about those con­tacts. McGahn asked Yates how Flynn did in the in­ter­view, but Yates said she could not an­swer.

She was fired four days later by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. James Clap­per, di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama, tes­ti­fied as well.

He re­tired when Trump took of­fice.

The hear­ing came hours af­ter for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials re­vealed that Obama had warned Trump against hir­ing Flynn as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser dur­ing an Oval Of­fice meeting af­ter the 2016 elec­tion.

The highly an­tic­i­pated hear­ing — it was Yates’ first ap­pear­ance on Capi­tol Hill since her fir­ing — be­fore a Se­nate panel in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was ex­pected to fill in ba­sic de­tails in the chain of events that led to Flynn’s ouster. Word that Obama di­rectly warned Trump sug­gests that con­cern over Flynn’s pos­si­ble ap­point­ment spread to the high­est level of gov­ern­ment months be­fore Flynn’s de­par­ture.

Flynn’s forced Fe­bru­ary res­ig­na­tion fol­lowed me­dia re­ports that he had dis­cussed U.S.-im­posed sanc­tions on Rus­sia with Am­bas­sador Kislyak, which was con­trary to the pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the Trump White House.

Ear­lier Mon­day, for­mer of­fi­cials said Obama had raised gen­eral con­cerns about Flynn with Trump and told the in­com­ing pres­i­dent there were bet­ter peo­ple for the na­tional se­cu­rity post.

Trump’s White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said in re­sponse Mon­day that if Obama “was se­ri­ously con­cerned” about Flynn’s con­nec­tions to Rus­sia or other for­eign coun­tries, he should have with­held Flynn’s se­cu­rity clear­ance.

Sally Yates

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