Tags: Barack Obama | Michael Flynn | Russia Probe | sally yates | senate | judiciary | testimony

Sally Yates: 'No Such Thing' as Anti-Trump Politics in Obama's Flynn Inquiry

sally yates speaks during a justice department news conference
Sally Yates (J. David Ake/AP)

Wednesday, 05 August 2020 05:03 PM

A key player in the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn testified that President Barack Obama and his deputies focused solely on national security, not anti-Trump politics, in discussing what to do about Flynn's dealings with Russia's ambassador.

Something like that would have set off alarms for me," Sally Yates, who was the second-in-command at the Justice Department at the time of the conversation, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. "No such thing happened. The president was focused entirely on the national security implications of sharing sensitive intelligence information with Gen. Flynn during the transitional process that was obviously already underway at the White House."

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.

Yates said then-FBI Director James Comey might have gone "rogue" – as Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. asked – by acting without consulting her to schedule an FBI interview with Flynn about his conversations with Sergei Kislyak, who was the Russian ambassador.

"You could use that term," said Yates, who served briefly as acting attorney general. She 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.

Under questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the committee's top Democrat, Yates said Flynn was potentially compromised because the Russians knew he lied in denying he had discussed American sanctions with Kislyak.

"We had Gen. Flynn engaging in discussions with the Russian ambassador that were essentially neutering the American sanctions, and that is a very curious thing to be doing particularly when the Russians had been acting to benefit President Trump," Yates said. "And then he is covering it up, he is lying about it."

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 had 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 that his statements weren't "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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A key player in the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn testified that President Barack Obama and his deputies focused solely on national security, not anti-Trump politics, in discussing what to do about Flynn's dealings with Russia's ambassador.
sally yates, senate, judiciary, testimony, justice department, rogue
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2020-03-05
Wednesday, 05 August 2020 05:03 PM
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