DANA MILBANK: Answers from Sally Yates, more questions for White House

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 20, 2017

With the issue of the President's ties to Moscow back in the spotlight, Mr Trump took to Twitter to dismiss as "old news" the Senate testimony on Monday by former acting attorney-general Sally Yates about his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

During an appearance on Monday before a Senate subcommittee investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Yates testified that she had warned White House counsel Don McGahn in three meetings that Flynn had misrepresented a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence.

"Ultimately the president made a decision, and it was the right one", Spicer said.

He told reporters Yates was "not exactly a supporter of the president's agenda", an apparent reference to her firing over ordering the Justice Department to not defend Trump's initial executive order banning individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Spicer referred to Flynn as a "good man" who President Trump didn't want to smear. Yates, a career prosecutor until Barack Obama tapped her to be the No. 2 at the Justice Department, recalled the questions the White House counsel had about Flynn: Why did DOJ care?

Spicer added that he was not aware of any security restrictions placed on Flynn after the warning.

In the hearing, former CIA Director James Clapper and Yates were questioned about evidence of possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian Federation.

Mr Trump has repeatedly branded the issue of Russian interference "fake news" despite the USA intelligence community's conclusion that President Vladimir Putin himself was behind the meddling.

So how - short of a time machine - can something that happened four days after Yates' conversation with McGahn be used as evidence of why the White House was right not to trust what Yates was saying about Flynn? In the first meeting, Spicer said, Yates told the White House there were materials relating to the matter that Spicer said that the White House didn't obtain until February 2.

"President Obama's former Director of National Intelligence and his former acting CIA Director have both said they have seen no evidence of collusion".

Yates is not on record as a vocal Clinton supporter. "They informed the president after they were informed of her giving us a heads up". Yates stated that she has no way of knowing "what, if anything" was done about the matter, and that "If nothing was done, then certainly that would be concerning".

Flynn remained on the job, sitting in on highly classified sessions including a phone call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump was notified immediately of Yates' concerns about Flynn.

Spicer frequently has chided the White House press corps for failing to ask more questions about the source of illegal leaks to the press. Was he still fulfilling his normal national security adviser duties?

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