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Trump calls Yates' testimony 'old news' in quick response to Senate testimony

Trump calls Yates' testimony 'old news' in quick response to Senate testimony

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said Monday that she alerted the White House earlier this year that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn could be "essentially blackmailed by the Russians". She did not specify what that was.

Ms Yates said she was giving President Donald Trump's White House this information so that it could take actions it "deemed appropriate".

Graham, the leader of Monday's hearing, also invited former President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, to testify with Yates and Clapper, but she rejected the invitation through her lawyer, noting the last-minute timing of the invitation.

Yates explained that any official publicly repeating the lie that Flynn had not discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, was increasing the chance Flynn would be blackmailed.

At one point in the hearing Graham asked both Clapper and Yates how information about Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador, that eventually led to his sacking, made it into the newspapers.

Despite the warning US President Donald Trump went ahead with Michael Flynn's appointment
JONATHAN ERNST REUTERS Despite the warning US President Donald Trump went ahead with Michael Flynn's appointment

The Trump White House on Monday confirmed that Obama raised concerns about Flynn in the November meeting.

Despite firing Flynn, Trump has tried to paint his former national security adviser as a victim of illegal leaks of classified information by Obama officials.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has characterized Yate's meetings as more of a "heads up" than a warning, but Yates refuted that portrayal, saying it had been a matter of "urgency" and that, after a second meeting with McGahn, they "worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the weekend" to make the underlying evidence immediately available to the White House. She said she provided McGahn with information that Flynn had been "compromised by the Russians" because of false statements he had made to the public.

Flynn's forced February resignation followed media reports that he had discussed USA -imposed sanctions on Russian Federation with Ambassador Kislyak, which was contrary to the public representations of the Trump White House. Flynn was sacked as head of military intelligence by the Obama administration in 2014 amid questions about his management style and reports of insubordination.

Trump shouldered into the conversation in the morning, tweeting that it was the Obama administration, not he, that had given Lt. Gen. Flynn "the highest security clearance" when he worked at the Pentagon. Flynn served under Obama as defense intelligence chief before Obama dismissed him.

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She said Monday she did not - and that she had revealed no classified information herself. Well before he reportedly discussed the sanctions placed on Russian Federation in response to their interference in the 2016 election and misled the Vice President and others, Flynn's behavior was already disqualifying.

"From my point of view, there's no doubt in my mind it was the Russians involved in all the things I just described", Graham said, referring to the USA intelligence community's previous assesments of Russian interference in the US election.

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.

Flynn's discussions with the Russian envoy have been scrutinized as part of an FBI and multiple congressional investigations into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia's meddling in last year's election.

The AP interviewed multiple former USA officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive national security information.

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A White House official said last week that the administration still wants Yates to testify in public and reaffirmed Spicer's comments.

Yates' warning about Flynn capped weeks of concern among top Obama officials, former officials told the AP.

In response to questions from two Texas Republicans at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Yates painted a picture of a White House that kept the Department of Justice out of the loop ahead of the executive order's release.

Yates, a longtime federal prosecutor and Obama administration holdover, was sacked January 30 by Trump after refusing to defend the administration's travel ban.

The subcommittee meeting Monday is one of three congressional probes into the Russian Federation interference, along with House and Senate intelligence panels. All the committees are led by Republicans.

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