Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates testified on Monday that she told the White House that Michael Flynn was compromised and vulnerable to Russian blackmail — 18 days before the White House finally asked Flynn to resign from his post as National Security Adviser.
In January, Yates said, the Department of Justice became concerned about a series of incorrect statements from top Trump administration officials regarding Flynn’s contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Due to incidental collection, the DOJ had evidence that these statements were false — meaning that either top officials were lying to the American public, or Flynn was lying to the officials.
She relayed her concerns to White House counsel Don McGahn in two meetings, scheduling them shortly after Flynn himself was interviewed by the FBI at the White House in connection with their investigation into the Russian election sabotage. According to Yates, she waited until after the interview to avoid compromising the FBI investigation.
“We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the Vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public, and because we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians,” she said.
According to Yates, however, the White House was less than grateful for the heads up — and instead of taking action on Flynn, McGahn questioned why Yates cared at all.
“One of the questions 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 said.
Yates said she reiterated the point she had made to McGahn on the previous day: that the White House National Security Adviser and top White House officials were publicly making statements about contacts with the Russians that the Russians knew to be incorrect — and could thus use as blackmail material.
“We explained to him it was a whole lot more than that and went back over the same concerns that we had raised with them the prior day, the concern first about the underlying conduct itself — that he had lied to the Vice President and others, that the American public had been misled — and then importantly that every time this lie was repeated — and the misrepresentations were getting more and more specific as they were coming out — every time that happened, it increased the compromise. And to state the obvious you don’t want your National Security Adviser compromised with the Russians.”
Yet despite Yates’ detailed explanation, the White House continued to publicly defend Flynn for over two weeks — until after the Washington Post broke the news to the public that Flynn had lied.
Even after Flynn’s resignation, the White House continued to variously deny and defend his actions. Nearly a month after Yates warned McGahn that Flynn was misleading other officials and vulnerable to Russian blackmail, Trump said in a press conference that McGahn “didn’t think anything was wrong” with respect to Flynn.