Former acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Monday May 8. In her testimony, she says that she warned White House counsel that former National Security Adviser had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and that he, Flynn, was susceptible to blackmail. This comes the same day that President Obama revealed that he warned then-President-Elect Donald Trump against putting Flynn in the position. In 2014, Flynn was removed from his senior position at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Flynn resigned weeks after his appointment after it came to light that he had lied to the vice president about his contact with Kislyak, where he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia. Those sanctions were from the former administration of President Obama as a result of the tampering Russia had undergone in the 2016 election.
Yates, who was fired by President Trump for refusing to enforce his (later to be ruled unconstitutional) travel ban, visited WH counsel Donald McGahn on Jan. 26 to inform him that the Justice Department had discovered that Flynn had lied about the sanctions. Flynn had lied to VP Pence, who vouched for Flynn publicly. Allegedly, it was Pence, after finding out that he had inadvertently lied to the American public, that gunned for Flynn’s replacement.
The knowledge that Flynn had lied, and that Russians had proof of that lying, put him at risk for blackmail, according to Yates. She did not advise any actions, instead just provided the information. The Trump administration waited 18 days after Yates visited to have Flynn resign.
It was not until four days after a Washington Post article came out exposing the visit that the administration took action and fired Flynn.
The testimony today illustrated that the Russia-Trump narrative has not, despite laying low, blown over. Trump has refused to condemn Vladimir Putin for his actions, instead offering him several different instances of praise.
The former director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr., who was testifying at the same time, said that Russia had been “emboldened” by the success of their influence campaign, the facts of which have still stand even four months later that the Russians interfered to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This testimony comes just days after Emmanuel Macron, newly-elected President of France, accused Russia of leaking documents before the election to aid his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen.
The testimony depicts a chaotic and turbulent White House, one where distrust is dissolving traditional processes and vetting. During the hearing, Clapper said the vetting process is typically “far, far more invasive and far, far more thorough.”
It’s been a recurring theme in the new administration. To appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the GOP had to filibuster and block President Obama’s choice for an entire year and then enact the “nuclear” option to ram Gorsuch’s nomination through. Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, did not have a proper ethics hearing, which would have outlined how she would avoid conflicts of interest. The first version of the ACA repeal and replace had to be pulled hours before voting because it did not have enough support, and the second version, voted on by the House this past week, did not go through the traditional testing and forecasting (particularly by the Congressional Budget Office) that is usually required.
The list goes on and on, but the point is the same. The Trump administration, and the GOP in government, is not making ethics a priority. They are skirting around traditions and rules to jam their agenda through—which makes that agenda both sloppily and potentially dangerous. It’s a scary and dangerous time in the world, and the fact that the leaders in our government are doing nothing to abet that is alarming, to say the least.
And at the worst, it’s life-threatening.