Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sally Yates: Trump ignored my warnings over 'compromised' Michael Flynn

  • Ex-acting attorney general says White House waited over two weeks to act
  • ‘There’s certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by [Flynn’s] conduct’

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Sally Yates, the former top official in the justice department, said in an interview published on Tuesday that she had expected the Trump White House to take action immediately after she told them that national security adviser Michael Flynn had become “compromised with the Russians”.

Instead, the White House waited 18 days before firing Flynn, acting only after Flynn’s allegedly compromised status was unveiled in media reports.
“We had just gone and told them that the national security adviser, of all people, was compromised with the Russians and that their vice-president and others had been lying to the American people about it,” Yates told the New Yorker, referring to statements about Flynn’s Russia connections by the then incoming vice-president, Mike Pence. “We expected them to act.” She added: “We expected them to do something immediately.”
In a second interview released Tuesday, Yates said that Flynn, in his clandestine contacts with Russian operatives, had possibly committed a crime or crimes.
“There’s certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct,” Yates told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
The double interviews by Yates, the former acting attorney general dismissed by Trump over a seemingly unrelated matter, delivered another blow to the Trump administration as it reeled from reports that the president had spontaneously revealed highly sensitive information to Russian diplomats in a meeting last week.
Yates expressed surprise that Flynn had continued as national security adviser for so long. The White House has previously said it did not rescind Flynn’s security clearances in the interim period after Yates made her notification, but before he was fired.
“I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage,” she told CNN. “He also had lied to the vice-president of the United States. You know, whether he’s fired or not is a decision for the president of the United States to make. But it doesn’t seem like that’s a person who should be sitting in the national security adviser position.”
In media appearances in mid-January, Pence denied that Flynn had been in contact with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. US intelligence agents knew that to be untrue, because they had transcripts of conversations between Flynn and Kislyak. Yates said the gap between the public version of events and the actual version gave the Russians leverage over Flynn.
The official White House rationale for Flynn’s dismissal, articulated by the press secretary, Sean Spicer, was a “trust issue” following Flynn’s failure to inform Pence of his conversations with Kislyak.
“Gen Flynn is a wonderful man,” Trump told a news conference in February after Flynn’s firing was announced. “I think he has been treated very, very unfairly by the media – as I call it, the fake media – in many cases. And I think it is really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”
Yates was dismissed by Trump after she declined to defend his first travel ban against visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which she deemed unlawful.
Trump and others accused intelligence officials of inappropriately “unmasking” Flynn in captured communications, a criticism Trump made on Twitter as recently as this month. Dragnet intelligence collection conducted under the aegis of foreign surveillance is supposed to conceal the names of US persons incidentally caught up in the surveillance.
Yates told the New Yorker, however, that Flynn’s name had not been “masked” in the intelligence reports she saw. “I oftentimes would get intel reports that included the name of the US person,” Yates said. “Not because I or anybody else had asked for it to be unmasked, but because that intelligence only made sense if you knew who the identity of the US person was, and that’s an exception to the minimization requirements.”
Another such exception, according to Yates: “If it’s evidence of a crime.”

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