Monday was a big day in Washington as the nation tuned in to watch the much-anticipated Senate hearing with former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
The key takeaways from the very partisan hearings were based around the timeline and intentions leading up to the controversial firing of former National Security Advisor General Mike Flynn, and the continued questions about the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.
The hearing produced more confirmations of what we already know than surprises. But here is what we found out:
Yates Warned The White House About Flynn Multiple Times
Yates testified about two events —on January 26 and 27— where she came to the White House to speak with its counsel Don McGahn. She also had an additional phone call with the White House. Her testimony goes against with how the White House portrayed her “heads-up” of the potential conflict, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer described it.
However, it took 18 days from the second meeting — and only after the news was leaked and published by the Washington Post — for the White House to fire Flynn. By lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his involvement with the Russians, Flynn set himself up to “be blackmailed by the Russians,” Yates said.
“You don’t want the national security adviser to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him,“ she said.
But more than anything, the hearing brought up questions about…
Yes, the President took his time to fire Flynn, and only after information of Flynn’s actions became public.
But why even hire Flynn in the first place? NBC News broke the story early Monday that former President Obama warned Trump about Flynn when the Trump visited the White House just days after winning the election.
For whatever reason, Trump did not take that information seriously, according to Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Apparently Trump believed that Obama commented about it “in jest.”
Why Even Speak Up?
There were a number of questions about whether it was Yates’ place to come forward about the issues with Flynn. And Yates was very clear about her intentions.
First, she said, “the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself.” Especially considering the fact that he gave Pence inaccurate information, which was then being used to unknowingly mislead the country. But second, and most importantly, she said that “the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others,” exposing Flynn to blackmail.
Overall Yates brought her A-game. But there is still a lot more we do not know due to ongoing investigations, and the fact that much of the information is classified.
One thing is clear — based on his tweets following the hearing, Trump is not happy.
We’ll keep you updated on the latest.