Yates Sees ‘Serious Questions’ in Timing of Comey’s Firing

  • Former acting attorney general was fired by Trump in January
  • Yates disputes White House statement on potential legal issues

Sally Yates.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates questioned the timing and motivation behind the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week and she disputed statements made by White House officials regarding the conduct of ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

“I think this is a really troubling situation,” said Yates, who was herself dismissed by President Donald Trump in late January after she refused to order the Justice Department to enforce his first travel ban, since held up by the courts.

Yates spoke during an interview on CNN that was recorded before reports emerged that Trump may have asked Comey in February to drop a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into Flynn. Flynn was fired after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian officials.

Yates testified publicly on May 8 before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time about her role in the Flynn controversy. She said she warned White House Counsel Donald McGahn about Flynn in meetings on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27, emphasizing legal concerns about Flynn’s “underlying conduct,” and calling his behavior "problematic in and of itself.”

In the CNN interview, Yates disputed statements by White House spokesman Sean Spicer that there was no legal issue with regard to Flynn’s conduct.

“I don’t know how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue,” Yates, an Obama administration holdover who stayed on as current Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s nomination began to go through the Senate. “It certainly wasn’t because of my discussion with them.”

While Flynn was eventually fired, that decision came 18 days after Yates’s initial warning, and four days after the Washington Post reported he had discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the issue he misled Pence about.

Yates’s Senate testimony also came just hours after the disclosure that then-President Barack Obama warned Trump during the presidential transition against hiring Flynn as his national security adviser. Obama had fired Flynn from a post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

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