Sally Yates: Michael Flynn Was Susceptible To Russian Blackmail
In a day of dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill, Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, said she warned the White House their national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied to Vice President Pence about his contacts in Russia.
Yates says she told the Trump Administration, during its first week in office, “the Vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the American public, and General Flynn was compromised by the Russians.” [Washington Post; watch a good 3 minute highlight here]
Flynn wasn’t fired by Trump until 18 days later. The New York Times suggests “Perhaps the biggest takeaway on Monday was that a lot of people had serious concerns about Mr. Flynn serving as national security adviser. But none of them was named Donald J. Trump.”
Hours before the hearing started, Trump suggested, without any evidence, Yates leaked classified information about Flynn’s conversations with the Russians and told Senators to ask about it:
Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
Yates said she never leaked classified information and noted there were several people in the room when she first told the White House about the intelligence, hinting the leaks could have come from the Trump Administration. Note Yates was under oath. Trump’s tweet was not.
We also learned President Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn when they met in the Oval Office after the election. Trump argues “Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration”, but he ignores the fact that Obama fired him.
The hearing covered other topics including Trump’s travel ban. Senator Ted Cruz tried to attack Yates on her understanding of the law, and it majorly backfired against him. Just watch here.
Favorite Appears To Win Presidency In South Korea
According to exit polls released this morning by three major news organizations, Moon Jae-in is headed for victory. Turnout estimated to be near 80%, which could be a record for a country that tends to have a high voting rate to begin with.
Once results are confirmed, the new President will be inaugurated immediately. That’s because his predecessor was the first ever to be impeached, in a huge corruption scandal. She’s in jail right now, but denies the charges.
Today’s Presidential election didn’t come with as much global flash as one earlier this week in France. That’s partly because it’s unclear what Moon’s apparent victory means to South Korea’s relationship with the United States, China, and North Korea at this very delicate time. Moon has been in favor of North Korean denuclearization, but strongly opposed to a military solution, saying if unification with the North is the goal, killing North Koreans isn’t a good way to go about it. A good profile of him is here.
“Don’t We Get To Consider What Was Actually Said?”
That question coming from 4th Circuit Judge James Wynn as hearings on Trump’s travel ban kicked off in Virginia. Lawyers for the President argued the judges should ignore statements about a Muslim ban made during the campaign, because the travel ban is not that. Wynn, an Obama appointee, shot back, “In determining bad faith, don’t we get to consider what was actually said here and said very explicitly? Even after the second order, there was sort of a wink and a nod — well, you know what I mean.” The Virginia court is considering a ruling against the ban by a judge in Maryland. Next week, San Francisco’s 9th Circuit will review an anti-ban ruling by a judge in Hawaii.
Ever Hear Of The “Blue-Slip Process?” You Will Now…
President Trump has named 10 conservative judges to federal courts, and even though Democrats can no longer use the filibuster to block his nominees, there is an even more exotic option at their disposal in at least a few key cases. Politico points out there is a tradition in the Senate Judiciary Committee that if neither Senator from a nominee’s home state approves the appointment, it doesn’t go through. It’s called the “blue-slip” process, which is explained very well here. And since both Michigan and Minnesota have two Democratic Senators, the appointments of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras would seem to be in jeopardy. (Both those nominees come off of Trump’s now-famous Heritage Foundation shortlist.)
White House Infighting
We normally don’t cover White House infighting, since there always seems to be a “pinata of the week” among Trump’s senior staff. But in an administration that is outwardly furious about leaks and yet extremely leaky, a couple of stories caught our attention today. Both focused in on National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Bloomberg said, well, Trump just doesn’t like him. That story is attributed to “White House Officials.” And the Washington Post suggests McMaster is behind a push to expand U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, quoting sources “inside the White House” who are derisively calling the strategy “McMaster’s War.” While we have no real insight into what’s going on, pretty safe to say those of you who were hoping Steve Bannon had one foot out the door: forget about it. (At least this week.)
“It Is Foolish To View Realism And Idealism As Incompatible”
We don’t always agree with John McCain, but his Op-Ed in the New York Times is spot-on and a must-read. We believe America’s support of human rights should not be balanced against support of our political ambitions. As McCain asserts, we can do both, we can be better.
More Town Hall Meetings!
The Senate is in session this week, but the House is not, which means your Representative could be back home holding a Town Hall meeting, fresh off the healthcare vote. In New York, Democratic Senator Sean Patrick Maloney pulled off an interesting stunt: holding Town Halls in both his own district and then a neighboring district, currently held by a Republican, John Faso, who voted for the bill.
And here’s another one for you, if you happen to live in New Jersey: Congressman Tom MacArthur’s Town Hall Meeting is tomorrow evening. MacArthur is the “moderate” Republican who moderated the deal with the far-right Freedom Caucus, clearing the way for the bill to pass. It’s a chance to let him know how you feel about that.