Yates: Alarm about Russian blackmail led to warning on Flynn

"We believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians", CNN quoted Yates on Monday addressing a Senate judiciary panel in a high-profile hearing on Russian meddling into the 2016 Presidential election.

The subcommittee meeting Monday is one of three congressional probes into the Russian Federation interference, along with House and Senate intelligence panels. That's the larger question that must ultimately be answered.

Yates, appearing before a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, described discussions with Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn in late January in which she warned that Flynn apparently had misled the administration about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Flynn's conversations with Kislyak are believed to have been monitored as part of normal US intelligence collections on the communications of foreign officials.

Pence said in January that Flynn denied those calls involved sanctions placed on Russian Federation by the Obama administration in response to its election meddling.

Pence was also entitled to know Flynn had lied to him, Yates said. A House committee is due to hear from her.

Yates herself, a longtime federal prosecutor, was sacked by Trump on January 30 after refusing to defend his travel ban.

Republican senators grilled Yates on why she refused to enforce the first executive order that imposed a travel ban issued by Trump. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.

She said Monday she did not - and that she had revealed no classified information herself. "That's what I promised you I would do, and that's what I did". He was sharply criticized by Massachusetts Sen.

"Look, I understand that people of good will, who are good folks, can make different decisions about this", Yates said.

"Logic would tell you that you don't want the national security adviser to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him", she added. When you talk to national security experts, some from the George W. Bush team and Democrats, they all told me today that a security clearance doesn't take the onus off an incoming administration to do their own vetting.

In the first meeting, Yates conveyed the basic concerns about Flynn to McGahn.

"The Russians can use compromising material in a variety of ways, sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly", said Yates.

The pair spoke several times over the next two days, with McGahn asking Yates how Flynn had fared during an interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier that week - she did not answer - and why it was the business of the Justice Department if White House officials had misled each other.

"That's right", both Yates and Clapper replied. In this case, the facts as laid out by Yates are stark:.

What these Obama officials revealed, however, does nothing to reinforce Yates's Russia-related testimony.

Since then, Flynn and former Trump advisers, including Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone have become the subjects of fresh scrutiny about their Russian ties. Later that day, Yates traveled to the White House along with a senior member of the DOJ's National Security Division, who was overseeing the matter.

Also scheduled to testify is James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence who attracted attention for a March television interview in which he said that he had seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation at the time he left government in January.

Even the run-up to the Yates hearing was eventful.

Yates' highly anticipated testimony came the same day the Associated Press reported that President Barack Obama had personally warned Trump not to hire Flynn. "Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to WH Counsel". He later retweeted the message with the word spelled correctly. The U.S. intelligence community has accused Moscow of orchestrating a campaign of cyberattacks to hack Democratic political organizations and release stolen information to undermine confidence in the American election. At the hearing, Yates denied leaking sensitive information to reporters or knowing who might have done so. Ted Cruz went to town on Yates, arguing that she may have broken the law by refusing to defend the order.

"And I believe they are now emboldened to continue such activities in the future both here and around the world and to do so more intensely", he warned.

White House officials have said publicly that Yates merely wanted to give them a "heads-up" about Flynn's Russian contacts, but Yates is likely to testify that she expressed alarm to the White House about the incidents, according to the person.

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