On Wednesday, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the January 2017 FBI interview of incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn was done without her authorization, and that she was upset after finding out about it.
“I was upset that Director Comey didn’t coordinate that with us and acted unilaterally,” Yates said in response to a question from committee chairman Senator Lindsay Graham.
“Did Comey go rogue?” Graham asked.
“You could use that term, yes,” Yates replied
Yates was also unaware that Michael Flynn was being wiretapped, only learning about it after a now-infamous January 5, 2017, briefing in the Oval Office about Russian election interference with FBI Director James Comey, Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director John Brennan, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. President Obama asked Yates and Comey to “stay behind” after the briefing was over, and it was during this more private meeting that Obama spilled that he was aware of wiretapped conversations of incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, a man he previously fired from his administration, and whom Obama had personally warned Trump not to hire.
According to declassified documents, “Yates had no idea what the president was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation.” Yates had been kept in the dark about the targeting of Flynn by James Comey. Yates said she was “so surprised by the information she was hearing [at the meeting] that she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time.” In fact, according to Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Intelligence on March 2, 2017, he “had not briefed the Department of Justice about” it at all.
The Justice Department dropped its case against Flynn on May 7, 2020, after internal memos revealed FBI agents’ intent to entrap Flynn on perjury charges in order to “get him fired” as national security adviser to President Trump. Attorney General William Barr has also said that Comey was behind the perjury trap that was set for Flynn.
“Does the new evidence show that the counterintelligence case against General Flynn was simply left open to lay a trap for lying?” CBS News investigative reporter Catherine Herridge asked Barr in May.
“Yes. Essentially,” Barr replied. “They had started a counterintelligence investigation during the summer, as you know, related to the campaign. But in December, the team, the Crossfire Hurricane team, was closing that and determined they had found nothing to justify continuing with that investigation against Flynn.” Barr continued, “On the very day they prepared the final papers, the seventh floor, that is the director’s office and the deputy director’s office up there sent down word they should keep that open, so that they could try to go and question Flynn about this call he had with the Russian ambassador.”
Barr also noted that there was no justification for surveilling Flynn based on the fact he was having conversations with a foreign ambassador.
“At that point, he was the designated national security advisor for President-elect Trump, and was part of the transition, which is recognized by the government and funded by the government as an important function to bring in a new administration. And it is very typical, very common for the national security team of the incoming president to communicate with foreign leaders,” Barr said.
According to Yates, the purpose of the January 5, 2017, meeting was for Obama “to find out whether – based on the calls between Ambassador Kislyak and Gen. Flynn – the transition team needed to be careful about what it was sharing with Gen. Flynn. But, Obama administration officials never had any “empirical evidence” of collusion, according to transcripts of interviews from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting or conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election,” testified former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in 2017. “That’s not to say that there weren’t concerns about the evidence we were seeing, anecdotal evidence. … But I do not recall any instance where I had direct evidence.”
“I am not in possession of anything—I am not in possession and didn’t read or absorb information that came from out of the intelligence community,” said former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, in response to the same question.
“To the best of my recollection, there wasn’t anything smoking, but there were some things that gave me pause,” said Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice with regard to the conspiracy. “I don’t recall intelligence that I would consider evidence to that effect that I saw…conspiracy prior to my departure.”
The cloak and dagger surrounding the Flynn investigation, and the entire Obamagate scandal, suggests strongly that key members of the Obama administration knew that they were breaking laws to undermine the incoming Trump administration.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis