Former acting attorney general Sally Yates and former DNI director James Clapper will testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. That testimony is expected to give insight into aspects of the Trump–Russia story, and in particular, into the story of Michael Flynn’s ignominious time as National Security Advisor.
The pair were originally scheduled to speak at a public hearing of the House Intelligence Committee back in March. But a week before that hearing, committee chair Devin Nunes suddenly performed his distraction dance concerning “unmasking”—claims that ultimately proved to have no basis in fact and which led to Nunes stepping aside from the investigation. But before he left that role, Nunes cancelled the public hearing.
From the day Nunes first appeared in front of the cameras to talk about his unlikely nighttime visit to the White House, rumors circulated that the whole affair—including the supposed “intelligence” supplied by Michael Flynn protege Ezra Cohen—had one purpose: stop Sally Yates from testifying.
Sally Yates, a top Justice Department official in the Obama administration, was serving as President Donald Trump’s acting attorney general when she told a White House official about conversations between former national security adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian diplomat. The White House has said Ms. Yates provided a “heads up” to the official, White House counsel Donald McGahn, about the conversations, without describing the nature of them.
Today’s testimony could reveal details of that “head’s up” as well as shine some light on why the Trump regime left Flynn in the most sensitive intelligence position even with the knowledge that he was in direct communication with the Russian government.
As with most hearings lately, expect there to be wildly differing sets of questions from Democrats, who will want to hear about Flynn, and Republicans, who will do their best to paint Yates as tool of the ‘deep state’ and, most importantly, disown Michael Flynn.
The Trump White House has a strategy.
- Brand Yates as a Democratic operative who was out to get Trump from the beginning and willing to torque the facts to advance her agenda;
- Put as much distance as possible between Flynn and the man whose side he rarely left during the campaign (which could be a tall order.)
- Portray Flynn, and no one else, as responsible for this mess.
Turning the guy who Trump put on stage as a keynote speaker at the Republican convention into “Michael who?” is a huge push from the Trump regime. It’s clear that Flynn was not only involved with the Russian government but, from his payments from RT and dinner with Putin through his cozy chats with Ambassador Kislyak, he was incredibly sloppy about it. As someone who was supposed to be an expert on intelligence operations, it seems very much as if Michael Flynn was openly flaunting his Kremlin ties.
The Trump strategy is to not just disown the man he gave the highest security post in the country, but make him into the responsibility of the man who fired him.
“The issue is he was issued a security clearance under the Obama administration in the spring of 2016, the trip and transactions that you’re referring to occurred in December of 2015 from what I understand,” Spicer said at a briefing with reporters. “So obviously there’s an issue … that the Department of Defense Inspector general is looking into [and] we welcome that.”
Expect Yates and Clapper to hear a constant hammering from this direction in today’s testimony, despite evidence that members of Trump’s transition team knew about Flynn’s transgressions before he was seated as NSA.
Members of Trump’s transition team alerted Flynn in November that any conversations with Kislayk were most likely being monitored, a warning that took place weeks before the two discussed US sanctions on Russia by phone, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the development.
In any case, Americans may finally get a chance to hear what Yates has to say about Flynn, and learn why that information pushed the Trump regime into such a wild and lengthy cover-up.