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Russia Blackmail Risk says ex-U.S. official.


Former Acting
U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates said on Monday she warned the White
House in January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had
been compromised and could have been vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.

Yates
testified at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing that focused
primarily on Flynn, and did not shed much light on other aspects of
investigations of allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S.
election and whether there was collusion between President Donald
Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Yates
repeatedly declined to discuss details of the investigation in a public
forum. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who also
testified, said he stood by past assertions that he had not seen
evidence of such collusion but also declined to comment on classified
matters.

Yates briefly led the U.S.
Justice Department until Trump fired her on Jan. 30 for declining to
defend his travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. She told White
House counsel Don McGahn on Jan. 26, less than a week into Trump’s
presidency, that Flynn had not been telling the truth about his contacts
with Russia’s ambassador to Washington.

Making
her first public statements about the issue, Yates said she feared
Moscow could try to blackmail Flynn because it also knew he had not been
truthful about conversations he had with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak
about U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Flynn,
a retired general once seen as a potential Trump vice president, has
emerged as a central figure in the Russian probes. Russia has repeatedly
denied any meddling in the election and the Trump administration denies
allegations of collusion with Russia.
Yates
told the hearing she had been concerned that “the national security
adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”
“Logic
would tell you that you don’t want the national security adviser to be
in a position where the Russians have leverage over him,” she said.

Trump,
who continued to praise Flynn, waited 18 days after Yates’ warning
before Flynn’s forced resignation for failing to disclose the content of
his talks with Kislyak and then misleading Vice President Mike Pence
about the conversations.

Several Democratic senators questioned
Trump’s delay. Yates said that in her meetings, McGahn “demonstrated
that he understood this was serious. .. If nothing was done, certainly
that would be concerning.”
During
that section of the hearing, Clapper described as accurate a report in
the Guardian newspaper that British intelligence officials became aware
in late 2015 about suspicious interactions between Trump advisers and
Russian agents, and that the information was passed on to U.S.
intelligence agencies.
“Yes, it is (accurate), and it’s also quite sensitive,” Clapper said.

Yates
was a holdover from the administration of President Barack Obama. Obama
had warned Trump, then president-elect, not to give the post of
national security adviser in his administration to Flynn just after the
Republican’s surprise victory in the Nov. 8 election, a former Obama
aide said.

The warning, first reported by NBC News, came up during a discussion of White House personnel.

White
House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Obama had communicated
concerns about Flynn. It “shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given
that General Flynn had worked for President Obama, was an outspoken
critic of President Obama’s shortcomings,” Spicer said.

Obama pushed Flynn out in 2014 from his job as director of the military’s Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA.

CYBER ATTACKS

Congressional committees began
investigating after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian
President Vladimir Putin ordered hacking of Democratic political groups
to try to sway the election toward Trump.

The
main investigations are being conducted by congressional Intelligence
Committees, although Democrats have clamored for a special prosecutor or
independent committee. They argue that congressional committees are too
partisan to conduct credible probes.

After Monday’s hearing, Trump took to Twitter
to bash the media and deny any collusion. “Director Clapper reiterated
what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is ‘no
evidence’ of collusion w/ Russia and Trump,” he said.

And
in another tweet, the president seemed to denounce the hearings. “The
Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer
funded charade end?” he asked.

FBI
Director James Comey testified in the House on March 20 that the agency
was investigating potential links between Trump associates and Moscow’s
attempts to tilt the election.

Trump
had also used Twitter before the hearing to insinuate that Yates had
leaked information on Flynn to the media. Yates and Clapper both swore
under oath that they had never leaked classified information.

Questioning on Monday often broke along party lines.
Some
Republicans veered away from Russia to focus on issues such as whether
the Obama administration had improperly revealed the names of Trump
associates contained in surveillance records.

Senator
John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, was one of a handful
who grilled Yates about her objections to Trump’s travel ban.
Trump
fired Yates after she defied the White House on the travel ban, a
policy that Trump said would help protect Americans from Islamist
militants.

 

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