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DANA MILBANK: Answers from Sally Yates, more questions for White House

20 May 2017

The White House is trying to spin their not firing National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after acting Attorney General Sally Yates reported to them that Flynn was compromised by his contacts with Russian Federation.

Flynn's forced February resignation followed media reports that he had discussed US -imposed sanctions on Russian Federation with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition period, which was contrary to the public representations of the Trump White House. We learned she was so concerned that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians that she approached White House Counsel Donald McGahn to warn him about what was going on. It also covers the post-election time period in which Trump and his transition team made a decision to appoint Flynn as national security adviser. Well, some Republican senators are fixated on who leaked details about the Flynn matter to the press, and the practice of "unmasking" USA citizens caught up in foreign surveillance-that is, how we learned about Flynn's dealings with Russian Federation. Was he still fulfilling his normal national security adviser duties? He's also accused Obama officials of illegally leaking classified information about Flynn's contacts with Kislyak. "Her character and integrity are widely respected on both sides of political aisle".

Democrats criticize Trump for not firing Flynn until February 13 - the day the Washington Post published a story that reported that, contrary to Pence's assertion, Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak.

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Spicer painstakingly went through the timeline between Yates voicing her concerns and Flynn being asked to resign.

But in a Senate hearing on Monday, the former acting attorney general produced just enough fresh intrigue to offer Democrats a new opening in the war of attrition they are waging against Donald Trump's presidency. And just as needless to say, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is refusing to answer any queries regarding whatever he was up to during that time. President Obama himself that month told one of his closest advisers that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which by then had been investigating Trump associates' possible ties to Russian Federation for about six months, seemed particularly focused on Flynn.

But if Trump's quick and dismissive reaction to her appearance is any guide, the Yates testimony put another dent in the administration's defenses. "They informed the president after they were informed of her giving us a heads up".

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Mr Pence said in January that Mr Flynn denied those calls involved sanctions placed on Russian Federation by the Obama administration in response to its election meddling. The first executive order was crafted nearly exclusively by White House staff with very little input from the agencies that would be responsible for implementing and enforcing it (even after it took effect, airport officials across the country were unclear about how it was supposed to work).

1, 2017, during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington.

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DANA MILBANK: Answers from Sally Yates, more questions for White House