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Trump Insists No Evidence of Collusion With Russia

14 May 2017
Trump Insists No Evidence of Collusion With Russia

The White House did not want to "jump the gun" on firing Michael Flynn as national security adviser based on warnings from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates because she is a "political opponent" of President Trump, the White House press secretary said Tuesday.

According to multiple news reports, Yates warned the White House that Flynn's phone calls with Moscow envoy Sergey Kislyak, which USA intelligence secretly monitored, could leave him open to blackmail. According to Yates, Flynn misled officials and media outlets like NBC News by stating that he did not discuss Barack Obama administration sanctions on Russian Federation when in fact he had.

Yates was initially appointed an assistant USA attorney in 1989 by then-President George W. Bush.

The testimony by Yates, who was sacked on January 30 after defying Trump over his contested travel ban, confirmed reports that she had informed the White House early on of the justice department's concerns about Flynn.

Meanwhile, the U.S. administration fiercely denied Trump's contested travel ban deliberately single out Muslims during an appeals court hearing Monday - despite the president's campaign call for a blanket Muslim ban. The administration reviewed that evidence for almost two weeks before asking for Flynn's resignation "to make sure that we did the right thing", he said.

The subcommittee meeting Monday is one of multiple congressional probes into the Russian Federation interference, along with House and Senate intelligence panels.

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee is looking into the Russian issue, regarding efforts to manipulate the 2016 election, and that is where Yates gave compelling testimony.

According to Spicer, Flynn was not removed from his duties immediately because of "an element of due process" after the White House "was informed of [Yates] giving us a heads up".

That was factually incorrect: During the hearing, Clapper did not say that there was no evidence of collusion between Russian Federation and Trump associates.

Republican senators in the hearing repeatedly pressed Yates on an unrelated matter - her refusal to defend the Trump administration's travel ban - and whether she was responsible for leaking classified information.

The controversy began during the transition period when Flynn spoke over the phone with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Yates told the hearing she had been concerned that "the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians".

But Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations, saying that sanctions were not discussed. James Clapper, director of national intelligence under President Obama, testified as well on Monday.

Prior to the Senate committee's hearing, questions were raised by Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, as to Barack Obama's handling of Flynn.