Yates says she warned White House that Flynn could be 'blackmailed'


Congress delved back into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, with a former top Justice Department official detailing warnings to the White House that a top aide to President Trump was vulnerable to Russian blackmail, as Senators were told by a former top intelligence official that that European allies had given information to the USA on possible contacts between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government. "The vice president was knowingly making false statements to the American public, and Gen. Flynn was compromised by the Russians".

But she said she didn't know if the White House took any additional steps to restrict Flynn's access to sensitive or classified information.

"The first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn and say the underlying conduct that Gen. Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself, " she said.

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.

The Russians "likely had proof of this information and that created a compromise situation - a situation where the national security adviser could be blackmailed by the Russians, " Yates said.

Asked at the Senate hearing if she had been an anonymous source for reporters on Trump or his associates' connections to Russia, Yates said "absolutely not".

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Yates' appearance itself had been fraught with drama ever since House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes' delayed her House hearing at the last minute, as part of a chaotic three-week stretch that saw the House Russia investigation nearly fall apart and Nunes become the subject of a House ethics probe. "Compromise was certainly the number one concern". Trump asked a similar question earlier on Twitter.

He asked if "taking action" against Flynn would interfere with the FBI's ongoing investigation. In the past, lawmakers who reviewed documents said they had seen no evidence he had reported the fees. That failure falls squarely on Trump's White House, which should have had that completed before pushing Flynn into position.

The Obama-Trump discussion was first reported Monday by NBC-TV.

Also scheduled to testify is former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, 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. She had been scheduled to appear in March before the House intelligence committee, but that hearing was canceled. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) accused Nunes at the time of attempting to "choke off public info".

Trump moved to distance himself from his former adviser's troubles Monday, tweeting that it was the Obama administration that gave Flynn "the highest security clearance" when he worked at the Pentagon.

But the larger issue, she added, was concern among senior Justice Department officials that the Russians could try to use the information to manipulate Flynn.

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Yates's public testimony once again raises the question of why Trump waited so long to fire Flynn.

Mr Flynn was dismissed as defence intelligence chief by the Obama administration before he became became a Trump supporter.

The hearing on Monday was the first time Yates has spoken publicly about her role in the Flynn saga. Specifically, the group has requested emails sent and received during the Trump administration.

The Associated Press meanwhile reported last week that one sign taken as a warning by Obama administration officials about Flynn's contacts with Kislyak was a request by a member of Trump's own transition team made to national security officials in the Obama White House for the classified Central Intelligence Agency profile of Kislyak.

Yates' firing quickly catapulted the former deputy attorney general into a viral hero as an "icon of the resistance" to the Trump administration.

In a second tweet, Trump said Yates should be asked under oath "if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers" soon after she raised concerns about Flynn.

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