Sally Yates, Under Attack by Republicans, Defends Flynn Investigation
The former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates on Wednesday adamantly defended the Justice Department’s investigation of Michael T. Flynn, clashing with Senate Republicans who accused her of being part of a politically motivated ploy by the Obama administration to frame President Trump’s former national security adviser.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Yates described how top White House officials became deeply alarmed when they learned in the waning days of President Barack Obama’s tenure that the top national security adviser to the incoming president was conducting secretive talks with the Russian ambassador. They worried that Mr. Flynn’s purpose was to undercut new American sanctions against Moscow, and that he was apparently withholding those discussions from the incoming vice president.
The F.B.I. eventually responded by dispatching agents to interview Mr. Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to them about his conversations with the ambassador. Though Ms. Yates did not sign off on the interview and disagreed with the process, she argued on Wednesday that it had been justified as a means to better understand what law enforcement officials viewed as a possible counterintelligence threat, especially in the context of an open investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government’s message of deterrence,” she said. “Far from rebuking the Russians for their attack on our country, General Flynn was conciliatory.”