Former FBI Director James Comey might have gone "rogue" in his investigation of Gen. Michael Flynn, former Obama administration Justice Department official Sally Yates testified Wednesday.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Yates if Comey went "rogue" by acting without consulting her to schedule an FBI interview with Flynn about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, who was the Russian ambassador.
"You could use that term, yes," Yates, who served briefly as acting attorney general, told Graham during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.
Yates said she did not authorize the interview of Gen. Flynn by two FBI agents Jan. 24, 2017, "because I wasn't told about it in advance, but that's not the same thing as saying I don't believe there was a legitimate basis for it."
She testified, "at the time" she would have believed there was "a legitimate basis" for the interview, but she was "upset Dir. Comey didn't coordinate that with us and acted unilaterally."
Yates also agreed with Graham's condemnation of improprieties in the FBI's pursuit of court approval for surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser.
President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress say a White House meeting Jan. 5, 2017 was part of a plot by Obama's administration and rogue forces in the FBI to spy on his campaign and then conduct a "witch hunt" into allegations of collaborating with campaign interference by Russia. Yates participated in the meeting.
Among the admissions Graham's questioning culled from Yates:
- She would not have signed the Page FISA warrant application if she has known it contained "errors or omissions" as discovered in DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report.
- She admitted the Obama Justice Department and FBI did not meet the "duty of candor with the FISA court."
- Yates did not recall former Vice President Joe Biden mentioning the Logan Act, but added "I have a vague memory of Director Comey mentioning the Logan Act" – although she testified she could not be sure he mentioned in the "Oval Office meeting" or in a private "discussion he and I had."
- Yates said she did not know the FBI had a counterintelligence investigation open of Gen. Flynn.
- Yates said it was "certainly unlikely we were going to pursue a prosecution" of Gen. Flynn violating the Logan Act.
- Yates admitted an incoming administration can talk to other foreign leaders about a "potential change in policy," as Flynn was investigated for doing.
- Finally, and most pressing from Graham, was Yates did not know – and was "surprised" she did not know – about the intercept of Flynn's call with the Russian ambassador. Also, she did not know how former President Barack Obama knew.
Flynn was a top foreign policy adviser during Trump’s campaign and became his first national security adviser in the White House. Trump said he fired Flynn because he misled Vice President Mike Pence by denying he’d discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those conversations.
Under the direction of Attorney General William Barr, the Justice Department moved to drop the case against Flynn on the grounds his statements were not "material" to the investigation into Russian interference in the election. Flynn's case remains the subject of intense legal wrangling, with a U.S. appeals court set to reconsider a ruling that would force a judge to dismiss the criminal case.
Wednesday's hearing had a high-profile viewer in Trump, who tweeted shortly after it began that Yates has "zero credibility."
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