Today’s big news is that former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (along with James Clapper) testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism today. (Here’s a transcript.)
Sally Yates was a United States Attorney, and then a United States Deputy Attorney General. She was appointed to both positions by Barack Obama. After Trump was elected, Obama-appointee and Attorney General Loretta Lynch left the Justice Department, leaving Yates as Acting Attorney General. Yates was dismissed by Trump on January 30, after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s immigration-related executive order in court. (Wikipedia)
James Clapper is the former director of national intelligence, appointed by Obama. He’s also a retired lieutenant general in the United States Air Force, served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 1992 until 1995, was the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and has held several key positions within the United States Intelligence Community. (Wikipedia)
So, what all went on?
To sum up, Yates testified that former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s “underlying conduct was problematic in and of itself.” She specifically told White House Counsel Don McGahn in a phone call and two in-person meetings that Flynn’s conduct was a big problem.
What conduct is that, you ask? Yates said she couldn’t reveal what kind of “conduct” we’re talking about here because it’s classified, but it’s a pretty good bet she meant Flynn’s calls with Russian ambassador Kislyak regarding the sanctions levied against Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, along with the fact that he was working for the Turkish government while working for the US government, that he was talking about having a guy extradited illegally to Turkey, and that he was making money on the side in Russia appearing on their propaganda networks. (Folks, that’s just the stuff we know about.)
Yates said that due to this “conduct,” which apparently the Russians also knew about, the Justice Department believed Flynn was compromised by Russia and potentially open to being blackmailed by Russia. This is what she warned White House counsel about a full three weeks prior to Flynn being fired.
James Clapper and Sally Yates also testified that Trump’s Muslim ban was unlawful (hence why Yates wouldn’t defend it) and that Trump’s refusal to admit Russia was behind the DNC hacks helped Russia.
What does this mean?
Not… a lot? I mean, on one hand, it’s all on the record from some fairly impressive sources. Republicans are gonna winge and crybaby about Yates and Clapper, and try to claim they were the source of the leaks, and smear them with whatever they can, but at the end of the day, these are two very good sources and pretty respectable public servants. On the other hand, this isn’t – so far – anything we didn’t already know. We got a couple of educated guesses confirmed and that’s not nothing, but there were no earth-shattering revelations here.
Here’s what we do know: The Trump team knew for a fact that Flynn was dirty and probably hella compromised by the Russians and didn’t do anything about it except cover it up, until the news leaked to the Washington Post and they were forced into firing Flynn.
The remaining question would be, “Why?” Why hire a guy you’ve been warned not to hire because he’s shady? Why cover it up? Why lie and smear and try to wriggle out of it? I’m willing to bet the answers to those questions aren’t gonna make anybody happy.
- New York Times: Obama Warned Trump About Hiring Flynn, Officials Say
- Washington Post: Yates says she warned White House Flynn could be ‘blackmailed’
- WTFJHT: Day 109: Warned.
- TPM EdBlog: Why They’re So Scared About Mike Flynn