The Russian government had “real leverage” over formed national security adviser Michael Flynn when he was fired by President Donald Trump, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said in an interview that aired Tuesday morning.
Yates informed the White House that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about the nature of conversations he had had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., information she delivered shortly before she was fired over her unwillingness to defend the president’s executive order banning individuals from certain majority-Muslim nations from entering the nation.
But despite Yates’s warning, Flynn remained in his position as national security adviser for more than two weeks and was only fired once the disparity between the true substance of his conversation with the Russian ambassador and what he told the vice president was published by The Washington Post.
“I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage. He also had lied to the vice president of the United States,” Yates said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, excerpts of which aired Monday morning on “New Day.” “You know, whether he’s fired or not is a decision for the president of the United States to make. But it doesn’t seem like that’s a person who should be sitting in the national security adviser position.”
Yates denied an allegation from the president that it was she who had leaked the information regarding Flynn to the Post, telling Cooper that she had never leaked classified information to the newspaper nor had she authorized anyone else to do so. She also said that Flynn’s actions were potentially criminal in nature, even though White House press secretary Sean Spicer has said that the former national security adviser was let go because of a “trust issue” and not over legal concerns.
“I don’t know how the white house reached the conclusion there was no legal issue,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t from my discussion with them.”