Yesterday, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee’s sub-group conducted a hearing that featured testimony from Sally Yates, recently fired Acting US Attorney General, and James Clapper, former Director of the Department of National Intelligence. What follows in no particular order, are what may fairly be judged as the most significant take-downs and take-aways.
The sub-committee’s Republican members repeatedly raised questions about “leaks”, unauthorized statements to the press, and “unmasking”. Clapper responded by acknowledging that all are important, but that greater attention needs to be paid to Russia’s meddling in our 2016 election and how to prevent this from happening again. It is a matter of setting the right priorities.
Yates’ testified that she held two face-to-face, highly informative meetings with White House Counsel McGahan regarding Director of National Security, Michael Flynn. Her characterization of these tete-a-tetes stands in sharp contrast to their being dismissed as a terse “heads up” by Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, and 45’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus.
Sub-committee member Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tried to trap Yates into admitting that Trump’s immigration order was constitutional. Yates was having none of it and cited a point of law that effectively rebutted Cruz.
In a morning Tweet that preceded the hearing, Trump referred to Yates, as a partisan with a grudge against him and his administration. Yates chose not to respond directly. Rather, she repeatedly refused to behave as a partisan, choosing instead to not step over the line of confidentiality in order to score political points..
In another Tweet following the hearing, 45 falsely claimed that Clapper had testified that there was no collusion between the Trump administration and Russia, and that claims that such relationship exists is “a hoax”. Clapper made no such assertion, simply stating that he did not know of any collusion.
Members of the Trump administration, including 45 himself, have claimed that Michael Flynn got the highest level of security clearance from the Obama administration. As matters of fact, (1) no administration is involved in issuing security clearances. The vetting of a person for same is conducted by a team of career public servants in the CIA; and (2) what Flynn received from the CIA, was a low level security clearance. Trump’s transition team never sought the higher level vetting for Flynn.
We learned that Flynn is not only under a cloud for lying about his profitable foreign contacts; he is also being investigated for behavior that Yates described as “…a problem in and of itself.”
Throughout the hearing Yates presented herself as a poised professional who had a command of facts and consistently put them forward both accurately and clearly. She came across as a credible witness.
Anyone who expected that the results of this hearing would severely damage the Trump presidency must have ended up disappointed. That did not happen. But, neither did 45 and his minions walk away untarnished. We are at the start of what is likely to be a long and tedious process, the outcome of which, right now, is anybody’s guess. It could involve only Flynn, or extend into the White House; even as far as the Oval Office.