Ex-Obama aides to testify in Russian Federation probe

Michael Flynn sits in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

Yates said she was concerned Flynn and the vice president might be put in a precarious situation.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates spoke during a June 28 news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.

"We believed that Gen. Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians", Yates told a Senate judiciary subcommittee, in a high-profile hearing on Russian meddling into the U.S. election.

Yates is expected to tell the senators that on January 26, when she was acting attorney-general, she had warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that Michael Flynn, Trump's then national security adviser, had not told the truth about conversations he had held with Sergei Kislyak, Moscow's ambassador to Washington, about United States economic sanctions on Russian Federation.

The testimony from Yates, an Obama administration holdover fired soon after for other reasons, marked her first public comments about the concerns she raised and filled in basic details about the chain of events that led to Flynn's ouster. Word that Obama directly warned Trump suggests that concern over Flynn's possible appointment spread to the highest level of government months before Flynn's departure.

Trump has defended Flynn, an early supporter in his election campaign, encouraging him to seek immunity from prosecution and referring to the congressional probes as a "witch hunt" instigated by Democrats sore over their election loss.

The February resignation followed media reports that Flynn had discussed USA -imposed sanctions on Russian Federation with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition period, which was contrary to the public representations of the White House.

Flynn was asked to resign in February, after White House officials said he had misled Pence about the nature of his conversation with the Russian ambassador.

"We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that Gen. Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians", Yates said.

Trump went on the offensive on Twitter Monday morning, hours before the hearing began, blaming the Obama administration for Flynn's security clearance and asking the committee to question Yates over leaking classified information to the media.

Yates clarified that she had no information of any Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. She said she was not.

Some Republicans veered away from questions about Russia's alleged involvement in the election to focus on issues such as whether Obama administration officials had improperly revealed the names of Trump administration officials contained in surveillance records.

Yates highlighted that she was giving the White House this information "so they could take action".

"We knew that was not a good situation, which is why we wanted to let the White House know about it".

White House spokesman Sean Spicer, responding to the reports, told a news briefing: "It's true that the president, President Obama, made it known that he wasn't exactly a fan of General Flynn's which frankly 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, specifically as it related to his lack of strategy confronting ISIS and other threats". Her brief tenure in the top Justice Department job ended days after her meeting with McGahn, when she was sacked by Trump over an unrelated issue.

He had been pushed out by Obama in 2014 from his job as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, during the Democratic president's term in office.

Separately today, former Obama officials said he had raised general concerns about Flynn with Trump and had told the incoming president there were better people for the national security post. American intelligence compiled a report late previous year saying Moscow was involved in efforts to hack U.S. Democratic websites, and that it's likely Russian President Vladimir Putin either ordered the interference or at least gave tacit approval for it.

After the hearing, Trump tweeted: "The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?"

The Obama-Trump discussion was first reported Monday by NBC-TV. The AP interviewed a host of former US officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive national security information.

  • Leroy Wright