On Monday, former Attorney General Sally Yates brought a bag of receipts(skip to about 1:01:15 for essential part) to the Senate judiciary subcommittee about President Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Yates said that she alerted the White House that Flynn was susceptible to being blackmailed by the Russian government.
Yates recapped a meeting on January 26th with White House Counsel Donald McGahn, during which she tried to explain why Flynn’s conduct was problematic, and that it could possible leave him compromised. Per a Washington Post transcript, the former AG gave the following remarks during her testimony:
…we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren’t the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.
And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the Vice President and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the Vice President and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.
And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the National Security Adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.
This testimony comes after news broke earlier in the day that President Obama had warned his successor not to hire Flynn. One senior Trump official took this as Obama voicing his dislike of Flynn, while another said he took took the warning as a joke. This is odd reasoning, as we’d have to surmise that either the Trump White House took Mr. Obama’s warning with a large chunk of partisan salt, or that the former POTUS made light of an extremely volatile national security issue, like a “Young Metro don’t trust Flynn lol” text.
However, it should be noted that Flynn’s lies or ‘omission of facts’ don’t give the White House an excuse to plead ignorance. Yates’ testimony, once again, highlights the ineptitude of this White House. The decision to hire Flynn despite repeated warnings means they either at best lack competence, or at worst, they decided that his compromising position wasn’t damning enough to not hire him, nor to fire him once they had more information.
President Trump has tried to pass responsibility to the Obama administration, tweeting “General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that.”
This is not false–Flynn’s clearance was renewed in April of 2016–but it is misleading.
Working in the White House requires a much more advanced and thorough security screening than he’d already been subjected to. So even if his clearance was renewed prior to the transition, Flynn would have or should have gone through another round of checks. For an administration that prides itself on its ability of “extreme vetting,” this passing of the blame is no more than a political “See, what had happened was…” and further evidence of our 45th president’s tendency to use plausible deniability like a Snapchat filter.
The Trump administration is allergic to accountability, and Yates’ testimony wasn’t exactly Mucinex for the ongoing investigations on the Trump campaign, transition team, and administration’s alleged ties to Russia. In short: they knew better, and simply did not do better.
You can watch Yates’ testimony below, via PBS News Hour (skip to about 1:01:15 for essential part).