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Mike Flynn ‘neutered’ US’s Russia sanctions, says Sally Yates

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates told a Senate Committee the FBI had good reason to be probing fired national security advisor Mike Flynn, who had ‘essentially neutered’ the outgoing Obama administration’s Russia sanctions in 2016.

The former career official who Trump forced out testified forcefully about Flynn, who she said was ‘covering up’ his actions, even as she acknowledged FBI errors in surveillance warrants for another Trump figure, former national security advisor Carter Page, that she said she did not know about at the time.

‘General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government’s message of deterrence,’ she said, in reference to sanctions Obama slapped on Moscow as punishment for Russian interference in the presidential election.

She spoke at a hearing organized by Trump ally and golf partner Sen. Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and is probing the FBI’s conduct in an effort that Democrats say are meant to help Trump’s reelection prospects. 

Trump attacked Yates on Twitter before her testimony began, accusing her of being part of the ‘crime of the Century.’ He has previously accused Barack Obama and Joe Biden of ‘spying’ on his campaign.

‘Sally Yates has zero credibility. She was a part of the greatest political crime of the Century, and ObamaBiden knew EVERYTHING! Sally Yates leaked the General Flynn conversation? Ask her under oath. Republicans should start playing the Democrats game!’ Trump wrote.

Yates called Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak ‘a very curious thing to be doing, particularly when the Russians have been acting to benefit President Trump, and then covering it up.’

It was just one of the times she managed to use her testimony to highlight Russian election interference, during hearings Graham scheduled to focus on the FBI. Its title was ‘Oversight of the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation.’ 

Yates called the Justice Department’s case to dismiss the Flynn case ‘highly irregular.’ The move prompted resignations and departures of career prosecutors.

‘It is highly irregular,’ said Yates, who added she had never seen a pleading like Flynn’s. 

‘General Flynn had twice plead guilty and sworn that he was guilty,’ she said. 

She called his false statements to the FBI ‘absolutely material to a legitimate investigation.’ 

‘No… there was no information that the Russians were working to aid another candidate other than Donald Trump.’

But she did not back up former FBI Director James Comey, who she testified did not inform her in advance when FBI agents questioned Flynn at the White House.  

Graham asked Yates about the interview, causing her to acknowledge: ‘I was upset that Director Comey didn’t coordinate that with us and acted unilaterally.’

‘Did Comey go rogue?” Graham wanted to know.

“You could use that term, yes,” she replied.

But she also countered the Trump narrative that the president and Trump’s 2020 rival Joe Biden had engaged in a crime he loosely calls ‘Obamagate’ when she described an Oval Office meeting where the Flynn case was discussed.

She said didn’t recall Biden ‘saying much of anything’ at the meeting, where notes indicate he may have mentioned the Logan Act. 

‘During the meeting, the president, the vice president, the national security adviser did not attempt to any way to direct or influence any investigation,’ she said.  

Said the interview of Flynn ‘was right at the core of the FBI’s investigation at this point to try to discern what are the ties between the Trump administration and the Russians.’ 

Yates, who signed off on two surveillance warrants for former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page, said: ‘I would never have signed anything that I knew contained errors and omissions.’ 

 She declined opportunities to either bash or talk up federal prosecutor John Durham, who attorney general Bill Barr has tapped to oversee an investigation of the Russia probe.

‘It’s not my position to day what John Durham should be doing or not,’ she told Graham. 

She said of interference in the U.S. elections:  ‘This is not something that happened in the past, this is something that is happening right now, as we sit here today.’ 

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