The Washington Post dropped a bombshell report on Tuesday morning, reporting that the Trump Administration tried to prevent former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian officials.
The FBI has concluded that Russia interfered with the US election and last Monday, FBI Director James Comey said that Vladimir Putin “hated Secretary Clinton so much” that “he had a clear preference” for her opponent, Donald Trump. Several claims made by members of Trump’s inner circle who had denied having contact with Russian officials have been reported as false, including statements by Flynn (who was forced to resign), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who lied under oath and has recused himself from overseeing the investigation), and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Yates, who in January had warned White House officials that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, was fired by Trump days later for refusing to execute his executive order targeting Muslim-majority countries and refugees. She was among the officials asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on March 28 before the hearing was suddenly canceled by Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif) last Friday. At the time, Nunes told reporters, “The committee seeks additional information from Monday’s hearing that can only be addressed in closed session.” Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, said that Democrats “strongly object” the cancellation.
The Post reviewed letters between Yates’s attorney David O’Neil and the Justice Department, in which O’Neil said Yates would not reveal classified information in her testimony. The letter criticized the department’s apparent position of “Requiring Ms. Yates to refuse to provide” information pertinent to the investigation. From the Post:
“The Department of Justice has advised that it believes there are further constraints on the testimony Ms. Yates may provide at the [Intelligence Committee] hearing. Generally, we understand that the department takes the position that all information Ms. Yates received or actions she took in her capacity as Deputy Attorney General and acting Attorney General are client confidences that she may not disclose absent written consent of the department,’’ the lawyer wrote.
“We believe that the department’s position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the department’s historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former officials,’’ the letter continues. “In particular, we believe that Ms. Yates should not be obligated to refuse to provide non-classified facts about the department’s notification to the White House of concerns about the conduct of a senior official. Requiring Ms. Yates to refuse to provide such information is particularly untenable given that multiple senior administration officials have publicly described the same events.’’
Department of Justice official Scott Schools responded by saying, in part, “to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to [the intelligence panel], she needs to consult with the White House.”
According to the Post, O’Neil then sent a letter to the White House relaying Yates’s intent to “provide information” during the hearing. Hours later, Nunes called the hearing off.
Though the White House did not respond to the Post’s request for comment, an official released a statement calling the report “entirely false” and “completely irresponsible.”