THE BIG IDEA: Sally Yates’s riveting testimony Monday raised far more questions than it answered. Most of all, it cast fresh doubts on Donald Trump’s judgment.
The former acting attorney general disclosed that, 18 days before Michael Flynn resigned, she unambiguously warned White House Counsel Donald McGahn that the national security adviser was “compromised by the Russians” and “could be blackmailed.”
Worried about the danger, Yates said she moved with great “urgency.” The #FBI interviewed Flynn on Jan. 24th. Yates got a detailed readout on the 25th from the agents who talked with him. Early on the morning of the 26th, she called McGahn and asked to come over to discuss a serious matter that was too sensitive to talk about over the phone.
In a secure room, she revealed that Vice President Pence and other White House officials were making false statements to the public regarding Flynn’s conversations in December with Sergey Kislyak. Intercepts reviewed by U.S. intelligence officials showed that the national security adviser had indeed discussed sanctions, despite his repeated public and private denials.
Yates explained that “the underlying conduct General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” but she said the bigger worry among senior Justice Department officials was that “the Russians also knew what (he) had done.” “This was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information,” she told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. “And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”
The next morning, McGahn phoned Yates and asked her to return. In her telling, the president’s lawyer wondered whether Flynn could and would be prosecuted. He also wanted to see proof. “One of the questions that Mr. McGahn asked me when I went back over the second day was essentially, ‘Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official?’” Yates recounted in her testimony. “So we explained to him that … the misrepresentations were getting more and more specific. … Every time that happened, it increased the compromise and, to state the obvious, you don’t want your national security advisor compromised with the Russians.”