Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates said that she informed the White House in January that she believed that Michael Flynn was “compromised with respect to the Russians” in his role as national security adviser.
Flynn resigned on Feb. 13, after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period. Flynn had insisted that he had not discussed sanctions on Russian with the ambassador, even though he had.
Yates appeared before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Monday in highly anticipated testimony, where she was queried about her Jan. 26 warnings to White House Counsel Don McGahn that what Flynn was telling Pence and others was not accurate.
The Russians, she said, were aware of what Flynn was saying, presenting a potential blackmail opportunity.
“We believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians,” Yates said. She declined to provide many details of what was said, citing classified information.
She added, “Logic would tell you that you don’t want the national security advisor to be in a situation where the Russians have leverage over him.”
But she said that it was not just Flynn’s misleading of the White House that posed problems.
“The underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” she said.
Earlier on Monday, President Donald Trump suggested that Yates had some involvement in the leaking of information to the media about Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials. Flynn resigned after the Washington Post reported that intelligence officials had intercepted calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
But Yates and James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, denied that they authorized any leaks or that they did so themselves. Clapper was also testifying at the hearing on Russian interference into the 2016 election.
In another tweet, Trump distanced himself from Flynn by laying blame on his predecessor.
Several outlets reported later on Monday that, in their first meeting two days after the election, Barack Obama warned Trump about hiring Flynn. Obama had fired Flynn as director of Defense Intelligence, and Flynn later went to work on Trump’s campaign.