Yates warned White House that Trump's national security advisor 'could be blackmailed' by Moscow - LA Times


President Obama warned Donald Trump last November against picking Mike Flynn as his national security adviser, a former senior Obama administration official said Monday, but Trump ignored the advice - and then fired Flynn in February for misleading the White House about his contacts with Russia.

Obama delivered the warning, which was first disclosed by NBC News, when he met Trump for 90 minutes in the Oval Office two days after the election, the former official said.

Obama had not planned on saying anything about Flynn, the former official said, but told Trump he should "think twice" about hiring the retired Army three-star general after they got into a conversation about personnel.

The disclosure comes as former acting Atty. Gen. Sally Yates is set to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the concerns she raised with the Trump White House in January about Flynn's contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington.

Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration's Justice Department, was acting attorney general for 10 days after Trump took office. She was fired when she said the Justice Department would not defend Trump's executive order seeking to bar travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Yates is expected to provide details about the warnings she gave the White House counsel that Flynn had discussed sanctions imposed by the Obama administration with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then had misled Vice President Pence and other officials about those conversations.

Flynn was fired 18 days after Yates went to the White House and only after news stories revealed the existence of a transcript of Flynn's contacts with Kislyak, which were recorded as part of routine U.S. intelligence monitoring of foreign officials' communications.

Ahead of the Senate hearing, Trump sought to distance himself from his former adviser's troubles, citing the decision by the Defense Intelligence Agency to extend Flynn's security clearance after he retired in 2014.

"General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration - but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that," he tweeted Monday morning.

Trump also urged lawmakers to ask Yates about the leak of information about Flynn.

"Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel," he tweeted, referring to Yates' conversation with White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also is scheduled to testify before the Judiciary committee. Clapper fired Flynn in 2014 as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's spying arm, for what officials said was poor management and other problems.

Clapper is likely to face questions about his statement, in a TV interview in March, that he saw no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies before he left office. The FBI is investigating whether Trump's team coordinated with Russia last year.

Yates could fill in details about what she told the White House, which has insisted that she gave only a general "heads-up" about Flynn's contacts with Russia and not a specific warning.

Flynn and Kislyak were in touch in late December, including on the 29th, the day the Obama administration levied sanctions in response to a determination by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin's government had interfered in the U.S. campaign in an effort aimed, in part, at helping Trump win.

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