Former NSA Director James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee this week about the unmasking of surveillance on Trump and his associates. It was part of a congressional investigation into whether Russia interfered in the election. Democrats claim the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the election.
The questioning focused heavily on Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Advisor. Flynn was forced to resign after the unmasking revealed he had lied to the vice president about a conversation with the Russian ambassador.
Media coverage of the testimony is focusing on the fact that Trump did not act right away to remove Flynn. But that is only a small part of what was revealed. More importantly, Clapper and Yates did not provide any evidence of collusion with Russia. They also revealed more evidence of the surveillance of Trump’s team.
Sally Yates made the fake media extremely unhappy today — she said nothing but old news!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked several piercing questions. He asked the two if they reviewed classified documents where Trump or his associates had been “unmasked.” The identities of Americans taped talking to a foreign official are “masked,” unless a request to unmask them is approved.
Clapper and Yates both responded yes, but refused to provide details.
Grassley asked them if they had any evidence that Trump or his associates colluded with the Russians to interfere in the election. Clapper responded no. Yates refused to answer. She added, perhaps tellingly, “Just because I say I can’t answer it, you should not draw from that an assumption that that means that the answer is yes.”
Next, Grassley asked, “Did you request the unmasking of Trump, his associates or any members of Congress?” Clapper said yes, but would not disclose any details. Yates said no.
Grassley asked the pair if they know how details of Yates’ conversations were leaked to The Washington Post. They both denied being the source.
Should Michael Flynn Have Been Fired Earlier?
Yates testified that she warned Trump’s White House counsel Donald McGahn about Flynn almost three weeks before Flynn was forced to resign. He was “compromised by the Russians” and “could be blackmailed,” she said.
Surveillance recorded a conversation Flynn had with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak on December 29 about recent U.S. sanctions against Russia. When Vice President Mike Pence asked Flynn about it, Flynn denied discussing the sanctions.
The lie, not the conversation, reportedly led to his resignation. Members of a presidential transition team frequently speak with foreign officials. Yates refused to name what of Flynn’s behavior she thought illegal.
Flynn didn’t resign until 18 days after Yates warned Trump. However, Reince Priebus, Trump’s Chief of Staff, explained on CBS’s Face the Nation in February that the White House legal department “said they didn’t see anything wrong with what was actually said.” When Yates told McGahn about Flynn, he told her that the White House was concerned that taking action might interfere with the FBI probe.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Flynn was forced to resign due to a “trust issue,” not a legal issue. The White House became aware of the lie on Friday, February 10. Flynn was asked to resign the next business day, on Monday, February 13.
Former President Barack Obama told Trump two days after the election not to hire Flynn. In 2014, Obama fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn worked on Trump’s presidential campaign and had been considered as a running mate. Spicer dismissed the warning as “sour grapes” from a “sore loser.”
Was Surveillance Really Just Part of ‘Incidental Collection?’
When Yates was asked whether Flynn was unmasked due to “incidental collection,” she declined to answer. Nor would she reveal whether anyone had asked to unmask Flynn. She said answering the question would reveal classified information.
Members of Trump’s transition team were reportedly caught in surveillance of foreign officials. Trump maintains that he was subject to surveillance. The Obama administration insists it was routine surveillance of Russians, who happened to be speaking with Trump and his associates.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has asked the House Intelligence Committee to disclose whether the Obama administration conducted surveillance on him or other members of Congress. He said an anonymous source told him it occurred. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor, was caught in a lie about unmasking Trump or his associates. At first she denied having any role in unmasking. After evidence emerged showing otherwise, she admitted she requested unmasking. She has refused to testify before Congress.
Republicans also questioned Yates about her refusal to enforce Trump’s travel ban. Yates was fired after refusing to enforce the ban. Judicial Watch is suing for Yates’ emails. (For more from the author of “Yates, Clapper Refuse to Reveal Details on Trump Surveillance” please click HERE)