Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates has disclosed during congressional testimony that she had repeatedly warned President Donald Trump's White House that she had reason to believe that former national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn could be blackmailed by Russian officials. Flynn was fired Feb. 13, two weeks after Yates had aired her suspicions.
On May 8, Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary panel as a part of its probe into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The former acting attorney general, who was fired Jan. 30 by Trump after she declined to defend his executive order banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries, disclosed that she had informed a White House official twice that the Department of Justice had serious concerns about Flynn.
"We believed that Gen. Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians," Yates said during her testimony, according to CNN.
Yates revealed that she had on Jan. 26 informed White House Counsel Donald McGahn the DOJ had evidence that Flynn intentionally misled Vice President Mike Pence regarding his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. She added that there were witnesses to her conversation with McGahn and that she had urged the White House to take action against Flynn several times.
"Mr. McGahn demonstrated that he understood it and was taking it seriously... If I remained at the Department of Justice and was under the impression that nothing had been done I would have raised it again with the White House," Yates said, according to The Hill.
Yates stated that she had reason to believe Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russian officials.
"The Russians also knew about what Gen. Flynn had done," Yates continued. "The Russians also knew that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others... they likely had proof of this information -- and that created a compromise situation, where the national security advisor essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians."
During her testimony, Yates defended her decision to not support the president's directive, asserting that it was not constitutional.
"I looked at this, I made a determination that I believe that it was unlawful," Yates told the Senate subcommittee. "I also thought it was inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice. And I said no."
The former acting attorney general revealed that the DOJ had not even been informed of the travel ban until it was signed.
"Not only was the department not consulted, we weren't even told about it," Yates said, according to BuzzFeed News. "I learned about this from media reports."
Yates declined to disclose whether she knew of any intelligence that linked Trump campaign officials to Russia's efforts to subvert the election, stating "My answer to that question would require me to reveal classified information."
On May 8, former administration officials disclosed that former President Barack Obama had warned Trump about Flynn when they met shortly after the election in November 2016, NBC News reports.