Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates is due to testify in front of the Senate on Monday, where she will address what and when she told the White House regarding former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Yates came to public attention after Trump fired her for refusing to enforce his first Muslim ban, which she said was unconstitutional (the courts later agreed). At issue on Monday is a different matter, however: specifically, Yates is testifying about a conversation she had with White House counsel Donald McGahn in January about Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.
Yates is expected to confirm reports that she told White House officials that Flynn was misleading them about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak weeks before Flynn was fired, which could put them at the mercy of Russian blackmail.
Ahead of her testimony on Monday, however, Trump took to Twitter in what appears to be an attempt to distract from the issue at hand: Why the White House failed to act on Flynn after her warning, and instead waited until press reports revealed the falsehoods.
Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
Trump provided no evidence to back up his veiled accusation, which seems to be an attempt to undermine Yates’ credibility ahead of the hearings and to shift the conversation off of his own administration’s behavior and on to press leaks instead.
Yates’ testimony on Flynn and Russia has been highly anticipated since March, when she was originally supposed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. That hearing was cancelled by chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif), who has since recused himself from his role in the Russia investigation due to questions about his ties to the Trump administration.
The growing firestorm around Flynn has been an ongoing embarrassment for the White House. On Twitter on Monday, Trump also tried to shift the blame for his own administration’s hiring of Michael Flynn onto former President Barack Obama.
“General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama administration — but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that,” he tweeted.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has also previously blamed Obama for the Trump administration’s hiring of Michael Flynn, citing his security clearance.
Millions of Americans have security clearances. According to a 2014 report, at that time, the number was around 5.1 million, or more than 1.5 percent of the population. Flynn, before being hired by Trump, was fired from his position as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, during the Obama administration.
According to a new report from NBC News, Obama warned Trump against hiring Flynn less than 48 hours after the November election. Responding to the NBC report, a senior White House official said that during the conversation, “Obama made the President aware that he was not a fan of Michael Flynn,” blaming Obama’s dislike for Flynn on Flynn’s public criticism.
Another official reportedly questioned why Obama didn’t revoke Flynn’s security clearance “if President Obama and his team were so concerned with General Flynn.”
Trump was one of Flynn’s staunchest defenders until media reports led to Flynn’s resignation. Throughout the growing controversy, President Trump and his administration have responded with bullish stonewalling, misleading statements, and diversion tactics.
Even after his resignation, Trump described Flynn as a “wonderful man” who had been treated “very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media in many cases.”
Subsequent reporting has turned up even more questionable behavior on Flynn’s part: While advising the Trump campaign, he also accepted hundreds of thousands from a Turkish businessman with ties to Russia to do lobbying work that benefited the Turkish government.
He also accepted money from the Russian government for a 2015 speech in Moscow, despite being warned in 2014 that it would be illegal if he didn’t get advance permission.
He then failed to disclose either payment on his security clearance form, which top Congressional lawmakers say likely broke the law.