Wednesday 13 December 2017

Trump administration was warned Michael Flynn 'essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians', says former attorney general

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies about potential Russian interference in the presidential election before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill (REUTERS)
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies about potential Russian interference in the presidential election before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill (REUTERS)

A former senior US law enforcement figure said on Monday she warned President Donald Trump's White House in January about then-national security adviser Michael Flynn because she feared he could have been open to blackmail by Russia.

Sally Yates, who was briefly the acting US attorney general earlier this year, told White House counsel Don McGahn on January 26 that Flynn had not been telling the truth about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington.

Yates, originally appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama's administration, said she feared Moscow could try to blackmail Flynn because it also knew he was not being truthful about conversations with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about US sanctions on Moscow.

Flynn, a retired general, has emerged as a central figure in probes into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow. Russia has repeatedly denied any such meddling.

Michael Flynn at the White House in Washington (AP /Carolyn Kaster)
Michael Flynn at the White House in Washington (AP /Carolyn Kaster)

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

"Logic would tell you that you don't want the national security adviser to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him," she said.

Trump waited more than two weeks after the warning before firing Flynn for failing to disclose the content of his talks with Kislyak and then misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Obama warned Trump, then president-elect, not to give the post of national security adviser in his administration to Flynn, a former Obama aide said.

Obama gave the warning in an Oval Office meeting with Trump two days after the Republican's surprise Nov. 8 election win. The warning, first reported by NBC News, came up during a discussion of White House personnel.

Flynn had been pushed out by Obama in 2014 from his job as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA.

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