May 09

The Russian Connection: Still Too Many Questions

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified before a Senate subcommittee about Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s Russian entanglement.

“We wanted to tell the White House as quickly as possible,” Ms. Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Monday. “To state the obvious: You don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.”

But President Trump did not immediately fire the adviser, Michael T. Flynn, over the apparent lie or the susceptibility to blackmail. Instead, Mr. Flynn remained in office for 18 more days. Only after the news of his false statements broke publicly did he lose his job on Feb. 13.

Ms. Yates’s testimony, along with a separate revelation Monday that President Barack Obama had warned Mr. Trump not to hire Mr. Flynn, offered a more complete public account of Mr. Flynn’s stunning fall from one of the nation’s most important security posts.

It also raised fresh doubts about Mr. Trump’s judgment in keeping Mr. Flynn in place despite serious Justice Department concerns. White House officials have not fully explained why they waited so long.

“I don’t have any way of knowing what, if anything, they did,” Ms. Yates said. “If nothing was done, then certainly that would be concerning.”

At the heart of Monday’s testimony were Mr. Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak. Mr. Flynn denied that they had discussed American sanctions, an assertion echoed by Vice President Mike Pence and the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer. But senior F.B.I. and Justice Department officials knew otherwise. Mr. Kislyak, like many foreign diplomats, was under routine surveillance, and his conversations with Mr. Flynn were recorded, officials have said. Investigators knew that Mr. Flynn had, in fact, discussed sanctions.

Her testimony left a lot of questions. The biggest one was that after being told that Flynn had been lying and was a security risk, why did it take eighteen days for Trump to fire him? When was the president* told? Why, after AG Yates met with White House Counsel Don McGahn, was Flynn allowed any further access to classified information? Why was Flynn allowed to participate in Trump’s phone call to Russian president, Vladimir Putin? One other question is would Trump had fired Flynn if the Washington Post had not published the leaked information about AG Yates’ meeting with McGahn?

It was very clear that AG Yates had information that even former DNI James Clapper, who also testified, didn’t. She did hint that there was still an on going investigation into Flynn’s connections with the Russians. Most importantly, it raises even more questions about Trump’s judgement and suitability to be president. Despite the attempts by Trump spokesman Sean Spicer to make excuses and brush aside the questions that are still unanswered, this isn’t going away.