The Trump administration tried to prevent former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying in the House investigation of ties between Russian officials and associates of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported.
The Post said it reviewed letters revealing the Justice Department had informed Yates that the administration believed much of her possible testimony was blocked because the topics were covered by presidential communication privilege.
Yates served as deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration. She also served as acting attorney general early in the Trump administration. She was fired in January after ordering the Justice Department not to defend President Trump's first immigration order.
She reportedly played a key role in the investigation into Michael Flynn, who became national security adviser. Flynn was forced out after "revelations that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United Stares in late December," the Post reported.
According to the newspaper, Yates had been asked to give testimony before the House Intelligence Committee this week, but the hearing was abruptly canceled by the panel's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
Meanwhile, a Trump spokesperson strongly denied the Post story.
"The White House has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible," the spokesperson said.
The Post revealed that in a letter to the Justice Department, Yates' attorney David O'Neill said she is willing to testify and will avoid discussing classified information.
"The Department of Justice has advised that it believes there are further constraints on the testimony Ms. Yates may provide at the (Intelligence Committee) hearing," he said. "Generally, we understand that the department takes the position that all information Ms. Yates received or actions she took in her capacity as Deputy Attorney General and acting Attorney General are client confidences that she may not disclose absent written consent of the department.
"We believe that the department's position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the department's historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former officials."
Scott Schools from the Justice Department, replied saying conversations with the White House "are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege…"
Yate's attorney then contacted the White House claiming that any privilege "has been waived as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing the January 2017 communications."
Yates had also made it clear to government officials that her testimony would likely contradict some statements by the White House, the Post said it was told by someone familiar with the matter.
Nunes, the committee chairman, announced on the same day the letter from Yates' attorney went to the White House that the public hearing featuring her testimony was canceled.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee urged that the hearing be rescheduled. He tweeted:
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