From deep in the bunker of his alternative universe, Donald Trump tweeted last night: “Sally Yates made the fake media extremely unhappy today — she said nothing but old news!”
In his dreams.
In truth, the former acting Attorney General — fired by Trump in January — confirmed publicly for the first time that the Trump regime refused to heed her repeated warnings that Michael Flynn was a potential Russian stooge. The regime kept him on the job anyway, despite the fact that Flynn was a paid Russian propagandist. And despite the fact that Flynn had lied to federal authorities, and to Vice President Pence, falsely insisting that he wasn’t doing any backchannel mischief with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Yates was originally scheduled to spill these beans back in March, to the House Intelligence Committee, but chairman Devin Nunes, in his role as Trump lackey, canceled the hearing. She got her chance yesterday only because Senator Lindsey Graham invited her to his Judiciary subcommittee. Graham is one of the few Capitol Hill Republicans who seems to think it’s important to plumb the depth’s of Russia’s pro-Trump penetration of the 2016 election and the Trump staff.
As Yates recounted yesterday, she met twice with Trump’s White House lawyer, warning that “every time [Flynn’s lying denial] was repeated, the misrepresentations were getting more and more specific,” and “every time that happened,” it hiked the odds that “the national security adviser could be blackmailed by the Russians … To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security adviser compromised by the Russians.” And again, “General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.”
All to no avail. She was fired and the regime protected Flynn, allowing him to participate in a one-hour phone call with Vladimir Putin, and Trump fired him 18 days later only after the free and independent press broke the story that he was potentially compromised.
I know it gets tiresome to play the “Imagine If” game, but still: Imagine what the congressional Republican reaction would be if Hillary Clinton, as president, sought to protect a national security adviser who was open to Russian blackmail; if she refused to heed repeated warnings from the Justice Department that her top security person was potentially a stooge of a foreign adversary. Articles of Impeachment would already be in the hopper, and Trump would be tweeting about it daily from his Manhattan aerie.
Trump’s other big con yesterday was his claim that the second witness, former Director of Intelligence James Clapper, was nice to the Trump team. Not so. Clapper had said in a March NBC News interview that he had no direct evidence of Trump-Russian collusion in the ’16 Democratic hackings (“Not to my knowledge”). Trump continues to trumpet Clapper’s remark, but yesterday, Clapper basically said that Trump is wrong to do so. He pointed out that the FBI is conducting the criminal investigation into possible collusion, and that it’s FBI policy not to share their preliminary findings.
So he doesn’t know what the FBI has. But what he does know – and this came out yesterday – is that British intelligence discovered late in 2015 that Trump associates were engaged in suspicious dealings with known or suspected Russian agents, and that British intelligence shared that info with American intelligence. Clapper wasn’t free to share the details, but he said “the specifics are quite sensitive.”
Somehow Trump neglected last night to tweet about that.
Oh, and we had this reminder of the big picture, from Clapper’s prepared testimony: Last autumn’s Intelligence Community Assessment — led by the CIA, NSA, and FBI — “concluded, first, that President Putin directed an influence campaign to erode the faith and confidence of the American people in our presidential election process. Second, that he did so to demean Secretary Clinton. And, third, that he sought to advantage Mr. Trump. These conclusions were reached based on the richness of information gathered and analyzed and were thoroughly vetted …”
And yet, despite all this, most of the Senate panel’s Republicans continued to make excuses for the Trump regime. One of them basically asked: OK, maybe the Russians did meddle in the election, but where’s the evidence that they directly influenced the outcome?
The best answer to that question comes from Max Boot, a military historian and former military affairs adviser to three Republican candidates (McCain, Romney, Rubio): “The Kremlin intervened in our election. It would still matter even if the Russian operation had no impact at all. The Watergate burglary was significant even though it didn’t swing the 1972 election.”
All told, he writes, “None of Trump’s evasions or counteraccusations can change the fact that a grave crime was committed against our democracy, and that we need to get the full story if only to prevent the Russians from doing it again.” Republicans should be demanding answers “if they have a shred of intellectual integrity or sheer patriotism.”
In Trumplandia, that’s a big if.