Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that former national security advisor Michael Flynn "essentially could be blackmailed" by Russia more than two weeks before he was fired, she said Monday.
Yates made her first public comments on the events as she and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. President Donald Trump removed Flynn in February after it was revealed that he had lied about the nature of his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Russian elements had the ability to blackmail Flynn because they knew — and likely had proof — that he had lied about the nature of the conversations they had with the national security advisor, Yates said. That created what she called a "compromise situation."
"To state the obvious, you don't want your national security advisor compromised with the Russians," Yates told the Senate panel.
The Trump administration has faced questions about why it hired Flynn to the key post, particularly after it came to light that the Pentagon is investigating Flynn over whether he got permission to accept payments from foreign governments, including a 2015 speaking engagement in Moscow. It also has faced criticism about the amount of time that elapsed between Yates' warning and when Flynn got fired.