Washington (AFP) – The White House was warned in January that President Donald Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail, a top former official told lawmakers Monday, as the issue of Moscow’s meddling in the US election returned to the spotlight.
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates, a Barack Obama appointee who was sacked by Trump early in his presidency, made the disclosure during hotly-anticipated testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Yates said she told the White House six days into Trump’s administration that Flynn, a former military intelligence chief, had not been honest with Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with the Russian ambassador to Washington, leaving him vulnerable to leverage from Moscow.
It nevertheless took 18 days before the president, pressed by Pence and others, dismissed the retired army lieutenant general, who had advised him on security issues throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
“We believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians,” Yates told the hearing in her first public comments on the scandal over ties between Trump’s team and Russia, which has dogged the opening months of his presidency.
“This was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this but that they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security advisor essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”
The testimony by Yates, who was fired on January 30 after defying Trump over his contested travel ban, confirmed reports she had informed the White House early on of the Justice Department’s concerns about Flynn.
Yates did not say what Flynn had discussed with ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a number of December 2016 phone calls, which were secretly monitored by US intelligence.
Pence said in January that Flynn denied those calls involved sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama…