Sally Yates to CNN: ‘The Russians Had Real Leverage’ Over Michael Flynn

In a preview portion of an interview with Anderson Cooper that aired Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day,” former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates said she had warned the White House that about now-former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

She said he was in a “serious compromise situation” and argued it would have given the Russians “real leverage.”

She, however, said she stopped short on the recommendation of terminating his employment.

“I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage,” Yates said. “He also had lied to the vice president of the United States. 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 advisor position.”

Yates also denied being any part of the leak to The Washington Post about the matter saying that she did not leak, nor did she authorize a leak.

Transcript as follows:

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, “AC 360”: The underlying conduct itself was potentially a fireable offense.

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, I can’t speak to a fireable offense. It was up to the president to make that decision about what he was going to do. But we certainly felt like they needed to act.

COOPER: Don McGahn actually asked you at that first meeting whether or not you thought the national security advisor should be fired?

YATES: Uh-huh.

COOPER: What did you say?

YATES: I told him it wasn’t our call.

COOPER: Was the underlying conduct illegal? Was illegality involved?

YATES: There’s certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct.

COOPER: You wanted the White House to act?

YATES: Absolutely, yes.

COOPER: To — to do something?

YATES: We expected the White House to act.

COOPER: Did you expect them to act quickly?

YATES: Yes.

COOPER: There was urgency to — to the information?

YATES: Yes.

COOPER: I’m just wondering, just on a personal level, and I don’t know if you can answer this or not, but, you know, you were in — you’re in government one week. You’ve been — you get fired and now you’re out and you’re watching day after day after day go by and nothing seems to have happened to the national security advisor that you have informed the White House about. Just as a private citizen at that point, did it concern you?

YATES: Well, sure, I was concerned about it. But I didn’t know if perhaps something else had been done that maybe I just wasn’t aware of, but —

COOPER: Maybe that they were keeping him away from certain classified information while they were investigating, something like that?

YATES: Maybe. I just didn’t have any way of knowing what was going on at that point.

COOPER: Were you aware that he sat in on a — even from media reports — that he sat in on a phone call with Russia’s president?

YATES: Just from media reports.

COOPER: Between the president and Russia’s president. Did you find that surprising?

YATES: Well, sure. Absolutely that was surprising.

COOPER: Sean Spicer said on the day after Michael Flynn resigned that it was a trust issue that led to his resignation, not a legal issue. Do you agree there was no legal issue with Flynn’s underlying behavior?

YATES: I don’t know how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue. It certainly wasn’t from my discussion with them.

COOPER: Do you think Michael Flynn should have been fired?

YATES: 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. 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 advisor position.

COOPER: Michael Flynn was let go after The Washington Post reported a story. Some Republicans have accused you of leaking it. Did you leak to The Washington Post?

YATES: Absolutely not. No.

COOPER: Did you authorize somebody to leak to The Washington Post?

YATES: Absolutely not. I did not and I would not leak classified information.

COOPER: Have you ever leaked information to them?

YATES: No.

COOPER: The president seems to suggest that you were behind this “Washington Post” article. The morning before you testified he tweeted, “ask Sally Yates under oath if she knows how classified information got into newspapers soon after she explained it to White House Counsel.” He does sound like he doesn’t — he seems to believe that you — you’re the leaker. Does that — when you heard that, what did you think?

YATES: There have been a number of tweets that have given me pause.

COOPER: You want to elaborate on that?

YATES: No.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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