Former top US justice official to testify on Flynn-Russia links

Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates said Monday she warned the White House in the early days of President Donald Trump's administration that his national security adviser, retired Army General Michael Flynn, could be blackmailed by Russian Federation.

She is expected to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that she explicitly warned Trump's team in January that Flynn could be compromised by his communications with Russia's USA ambassador.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who questioned Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper focused on lax White House vetting procedures as Republicans pushed for answers on unmasking and leaking of classified information.

Her account came on a dramatic day where Russian meddling in US politics returned to centre stage with a public hearing, the president tweeting about it, and the revelation Barack Obama warned Trump in their first meeting not to hire Michael Flynn.

The Jan. 26 conversation took place two days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Flynn about those contacts. McGahn asked Yates how Flynn did in the interview, but Yates said she could not answer. It has been 108 days of this presidency so far - that's it - and already we are at this level of cover-up and scandal.

He then asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he has appeared on Russia Today, the state-run propaganda TV network, like Flynn has.

"General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration", Trump said, "but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that".

The Russian government-funded news outlet that United States intelligence agencies say played a key role in disseminating stolen emails meant to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, who fired Yates soon after taking office, shot off a series of pre-emptive strikes ahead of her appearance on Capitol Hill, accusing Obama of enabling Flynn, and assailing Yates for allegedly leaking classified information.

Nor was Yates the only one to warn the Trump White House about Flynn.

"We weren't the only ones that knew all of this", Yates said, referring to revelations that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about the true content of a December call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Former Justice Department official Sally Yates said she twice delivered a warning to the White House legal counsel that Flynn had been lying about his exchanges with the Russian ambassador, the Russians obviously knew about it, and this made Flynn an easy blackmail target.

"President Obama made it known that he wasn't exactly a fan of Gen. Flynn's", White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Trump suggested in a separate tweet on Monday problems with Flynn, fired in February, should have been flagged by the previous administration.

Obama had cautioned against Flynn, whom he fired in 2014 as head of the defense intelligence agency, due to his poor record in administration and personnel management. Yates detailed her own warnings to the Trump White House about Flynn, including meetings with the White House counsel in which she said that discrepancies over Flynn's contacts with the Russian envoy left him vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow. Mr. Clapper said that he had at least on one occasion requested unmasking involving a Trump associate.

Donald Trump has hit back angrily over new claims about his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned amid controversy over his links with Russian Federation.

Marshall Billingslea, a former Pentagon and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation official, wanted the information for Flynn, his boss.

Mr Obama warned his successor less than 48 hours after the November election during a conversation in the Oval Office, former Obama officials said. When reached by the AP last week, Billingslea refused to comment.

  • Leroy Wright