White House officials initially maintained that President Donald Trump's national security adviser had not discussed Russian sanctions with the Russian ambassador, but after news reports said the opposite, they then admitted that he had misled them.
WASHINGTON — Former acting attorney general Sally Yates is expected to testify to Congress next week that she expressed alarm to the White House about President Donald Trump’s national security adviser’s contacts with the Russian ambassador, which could contradict how the administration has characterized her counsel.
Yates is expected to recount in detail on Monday her Jan. 26 conversation about Michael Flynn and to say that she saw discrepancies between the administration’s public statements on his contacts with ambassador Sergey Kislyak and what really transpired, according to a person familiar with that discussion and knowledgeable about Yates’s plans for her testimony. The person spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the testimony.
Yates is expected to say that she told White House counsel Don McGahn that she was concerned Flynn’s communications with Kislyak could leave Flynn in a compromised position as a result of the contradictions between the public depictions of the calls and what intelligence officials knew to be true, the person said. White House officials have said publicly that Yates merely wanted to give them a “heads-up” about Flynn’s Russian contacts, but Yates is likely to testify that she approached the White House with alarm, according to the person.
“So just to be clear, the acting attorney general informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give a ‘heads up’ to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what he had sent the Vice President out in particular,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said at a Feb. 14 press briefing.
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Flynn resigned in February after published reports detailed Yates’s conversation with McGahn. White House officials initially maintained that Flynn had not discussed Russian sanctions with Kislyak during the transition period, but after news reports said the opposite, they then admitted that he had misled them about the nature of that call.
“The issue, pure and simple, came down to a matter of trust,” Spicer said.
Flynn was in frequent contact with Kislyak on the day the Obama administration slapped sanctions on Russia for election-related hacking, as well as at other times during the transition, a U.S. official has said.
Yates’s scheduled appearance before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, alongside former national intelligence director James Clapper, will provide her first public account of the conversation with the White house. It will also represent her first testimony before Congress since Yates, an Obama administration holdover, was fired in January for refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban.
She was previously scheduled to appear in March before a House committee investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, but that hearing was canceled.
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