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Monday, May 08, 2017


Sally Yates to testify

by Tom Sullivan

Have the popcorn ready. Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates will testify on Russian interference in the 2016 election before a Senate subcommittee hearing today at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Her testimony before the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing is to be streamed live here and should be up at C-SPAN.

Business Insider:

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will also testify before the subcommittee, which is chaired by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — a Russia hawk who has said that Flynn's request for immunity in exchange for testifying before the congressional intelligence committees about his Russia ties is "a bit bizarre."

“He's said in the past nobody asks for immunity unless they have committed a crime. I'm not so sure that's true — as a lawyer I know that always that is not true. But the whole situation is really strange," Graham told CNN last month.
Fired in January after 10 days in the position, Yates refused to defend President Trump's ban on travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. Yates will likely contradict the administration's account of the firing of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House sought to delay her testimony for over a month and attempted to limit topics on which Yates could testify. The Washington Post reported that letters from the Department of Justice argued many topics "off-limits in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by attorney-client privilege or the presidential communication privilege."

Yates is expected to testify that she warned the White House that Flynn's contact with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, made him a security risk:
Lawmakers want to question Yates about her conversation in January with White House counsel Donald McGahn regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn. People familiar with that conversation say she went to the White House days after the inauguration to tell officials that statements made by Vice President Pence and others about Flynn’s discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were wrong, and to warn them that those contradictions could expose Flynn or others to potential manipulation by the Russians.

Yates’s testimony Monday is expected to contradict public statements made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who described the Yates-McGahn meeting as less of a warning and more of a “heads up’’ about an issue involving Flynn.
Trump dismissed Flynn only after the Washington Post reported that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his phone calls with Kislyak.

Meanwhile, Trump is reportedly telling White House staff to lay off Flynn after an Axios report that officials were actively trying to put distance between Trump and Flynn. Anonymous administration officials are telling reporters:
  • Flynn's only priority was getting the president on board with his agenda.
  • The White House and the national security process is infinitely more synchronized and functional without him. He isn't missed.
  • Flynn pushed his own points of view — selectively presenting information to Trump in ways favorable to his own positions — rather than serving as an honest broker as national security advisors should.
  • His lawyer's statement that Flynn "certainly has a story to tell" and that he'd only tell it if granted immunity, looked "desperate," according to a senior administration official. (Harvard Law professor Alex Whiting made the same case back in March in a post on the site Just Security that's well worth a read.)
But Yates also has a target on her back. Trump took to Twitter yesterday to try to change the subject.
Flynn's immunity request rejected by the Senate Intelligence Committee may come up. Marcy Wheeler's analysis gets at why. She looks at weekend stories from the Washington Post and the Associated Press and sees competing narratives about Flynn's (and Jared Kushner's) meetings with Russian officials that led to Kushner's meeting with "the FSB-trained head of a sanctioned bank." (We learned again yesterday that the Trump family has extensive connections to Russian financiers.) Wheeler writes:
The subtext of taking the two Billingslea stories and the Sergey Gorkov one together is that Flynn — or even the President’s son-in-law — may have provided intelligence to the Russians, in events that led up to the closest thing we’ve seen to a possible quid pro quo.