Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was canned by the Trump regime less than two weeks into the new "administration" presumably over her refusal to support the clearly unconstitutional Muslim immigration and refugee ban program, but the real reason may have been what she found out about fired Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn when she took over in January. Now Yates will testify to the Senate today about what she found out about Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in those key first days.
Lawmakers want to question Yates about her conversation in January with White House counsel Donald McGahn regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn. People familiar with that conversation say she went to the White House days after the inauguration to tell officials that statements made by Vice President Pence and others about Flynn’s discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were wrong, and to warn them that those contradictions could expose Flynn or others to potential manipulation by the Russians.
Yates’s testimony Monday is expected to contradict public statements made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who described the Yates-McGahn meeting as less of a warning and more of a “heads up’’ about an issue involving Flynn.
In February, Spicer told reporters that Yates had “informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give a heads up to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict. . . . The White House counsel informed the president immediately. The president asked him to conduct a review of whether there was a legal situation there. That was immediately determined that there wasn’t.’’
The same month, Priebus described the Yates conversation in similar terms, telling CBS’s “Face the Nation’’ that “our legal counsel got a heads up from Sally Yates that something wasn’t adding up with his story. And then so our legal department went into a review of the situation. . . . The legal department came back and said they didn’t see anything wrong with what was actually said.’’
People familiar with the matter say both statements understate the seriousness of what Yates told McGahn — that she went to the White House to warn them that Flynn could be compromised — or blackmailed — by the Russians at some point if they threatened to reveal the true nature of his conversations with the ambassador.
Those people said that although Yates’s testimony may contradict Spicer and Priebus, her appearance Monday is unlikely to reveal new details about the FBI’s investigation into whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian officials to meddle with last year’s presidential election, in part because many of the details of that probe remain classified. Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. is also scheduled to testify at Monday’s hearing. Lawmakers had invited another Obama administration official, Susan E. Rice, to testify but she declined.
In other words, as acting AG, Yates immediately took a look at the situation with the ongoing investigation into Mike Flynn and his relationship with the Russians and immediately notified Trump's White House counsel that Flynn was compromised, and that keeping him around as National Security Adviser was a direct threat to the country.
The Trump regime is terrified of this, to the point of looking to sacrifice Flynn to the Gods of Political Expediency as soon as Yates testifies, according to the gang at Politico 2.0.
On Monday, Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general under President Obama, is expected to tell a Senate panel how she warned top White House officials that Gen. Flynn misled the Vice President and others about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. It should be an uncomfortable morning for the West Wing.
The White House's strategy to push back:
- Brand Yates as a Democratic operative who was out to get Trump from the beginning and willing to torque the facts to advance her agenda;
- Put as much distance as possible between Flynn and the man whose side he rarely left during the campaign (which could be a tall order.)
- Portray Flynn, and no one else, as responsible for this mess.
Here's the case against Flynn that administration officials — including Flynn's former allies — have been making anonymously to reporters:
- Flynn's only priority was getting the president on board with his agenda.
- The White House and the national security process is infinitely more synchronized and functional without him. He isn't missed.
- Flynn pushed his own points of view — selectively presenting information to Trump in ways favorable to his own positions — rather than serving as an honest broker as national security advisors should.
- His lawyer's statement that Flynn "certainly has a story to tell" and that he'd only tell it if granted immunity, looked "desperate," according to a senior administration official. (Harvard Law professor Alex Whiting made the same case back in March in a post on the site Just Security that's well worth a read.)
Our thought bubble: It's worth noting that the one person in the White House who remains reluctant to undermine Flynn is the man who fired him. President Trump says Flynn is the victim of a Democrat/media-fuelled "witch hunt," and has publicly endorsed Flynn's request for immunity.
Get ready for a nasty week in Washington, even by this regime's standards.