Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said in an interview aired Tuesday that “there is certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by” ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s “conduct.”
Her comments came in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, her first since President Donald Trump fired her in late January.
Yates, who fired after she refused to defend Trump’s controversial travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, warned White House counsel Donald McGahn that Russia could potentially blackmail Flynn for contacts he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Those warnings went mostly ignored, as Flynn stayed on as national security adviser for the next 18 days until a bombshell Washington Post report stated that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Kislyak. Last week, Yates testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reiterated that she believed Flynn could have been blackmailed.
In the interview set to air Tuesday night, the first clips from which CNN published Tuesday morning, Yates did not expand upon the criminal statute she suggested had been implicated by Flynn’s conduct. She did express surprise that the White House waited 18 days before firing Flynn and that Flynn continued to sit in on meetings and calls with foreign dignitaries, including Russian leaders.
“I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage,” she told CNN. “He also had lied to the vice president of the United States. Whether he’s fired or not is a decision for the president of the United States to make. But, doesn’t seem like that’s a person should be sitting in the national security adviser position.”
She said she didn’t “how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue,” but “it certainly wasn’t from my discussion with them.”
“We expected the White House to act,” she said.
Yates also denied that she was the source of the leaks to multiple media outlets about Flynn, saying she “absolutely” was not the source and had never leaked classified information to the media.
“I did not and I would not leak classified information,” she said.
Cooper asked Yates for her thoughts on Trump’s tweet from the day of her Senate testimony when he asked senators to “ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to” the White House counsel.
“There have been a number of tweets that have given me pause,” she said, declining to go further into her feelings on the subject.
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