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National News

Yates Testifies that Flynn Secretly Neutered Obama's Sanctions on Russia

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Yates Testifies that Flynn Secretly Neutered Obama's Sanctions on Russia

2020-08-06 18:16:51

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Sally Yates (Image source: Public domain)

In Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) continual search to prove the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation, which led to former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, were illegitimate, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates was called in for a hearing led by Graham. With the Justice Department recently dropping the charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, some of the testimony delved into that.

Graham repeatedly insisted that the FBI's investigation that involved Flynn had been closed in January 2017. Yates cut him off at one point and responded, "Senator, I'm sorry. That's just not accurate. It was not closed on January 4."

"The only problem here is that you didn't like Flynn changing the policy or talking about changing the policy. ... We're criminalizing policy differences. That's why Flynn got prosecuted — because they hated his guys," charged Graham.

When Donald Trump was still president-elect, Flynn met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Evidence uncovered in the Mueller investigation showed that Flynn and the ambassador were discussing the sanctions that then-President Barack Obama had issued for Russia. Yates testified that the FBI intercepted information that Flynn intended to "neuter" the sanctions.

Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI and Mike Pence about his contact with the ambassador, was fired a few weeks after becoming the national security adviser, and took a plea deal in December 2017 with Mueller's prosecutors. This year he asked to recall his plea, which led to the DOJ dropping charges.

When she was asked about the decision of the DOJ to drop the charges against Flynn, she referred to the situation as "highly irregular."

Obviously feeling the heat, Trump tweeted that the former deputy attorney general "has zero credibility. She was a part of the greatest political crime of the Century, and ObamaBiden knew EVERYTHING! Sally Yates leaked the General Flynn conversation? Ask her under oath. Republicans should start playing the Democrats game!"

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) moved on to the investigation into Trump's cooperation with Russia, asking if Trump "violated the law" by his actions.

Yates replied Mueller had found there was insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy. She also noted she hadn't been a part of the Mueller investigation and shouldn't offer any more opinions.

Kennedy moved to ask Yates if she just "couldn't bring yourself to say that he didn't violate the law."

She responded, "Senator, you're putting words in my mouth." She further told him that she didn't "respect the manner in which [Trump] has carried out the presidency."

Kennedy asked, "You despise Donald Trump, don't you?"

The GOP is putting stock in a January 2017 meeting at the White House, suggesting Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden were trying to influence the FBI investigation. Then-FBI director James Comey and Obama discussed sharing information related to Russia with Flynn.

Yates was able to disassemble the theory that Obama or Biden were trying to direct the investigation of Flynn. She also repeatedly denied that investigating Flynn was a potential violation of the Logan Act.

"During the meeting, the president, the vice president, the national security adviser, did not attempt to in any way ... direct or influence any investigation," she said. She added that by doing that, it would have "set off alarms for me."

Yates was asked if the Logan Act was mentioned and said the law was not the primary focus. Instead, the focus was on a counterintelligence concern that was brought up because of Flynn's talks with Kislyak and his lies about the talks.

She was the one who signed the initial warrant application on Trump campaign aide Carter Page and the first renewal. Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz found seven errors and omissions in the initial application and 17 among the four warrant applications that were linked to Page.

"Nobody appears to know anything in the government, and yet somehow a federal court was deliberately and systemically misled. ... If this doesn't call for cleaning of house at DOJ and the FBI, I don't know what is," insisted Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the top Democrat on the committee, argued, "I see there's no reason for those remarks. They're inflammatory." This led Graham to defend Hawley, saying his comments weren't "inflammatory at all."

"I think they're the truth. ... What the hell is going on over there?" asked the chairman.

As Graham continued to grill Yates and interrupt her attempts to answer, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a former chairman of the panel, hit back. "Just because it's a woman testifying doesn't mean she has to be cut off." 

"Thanks a lot, Sen. Leahy. I really appreciate that," Graham deadpanned. "You're very constructive."

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