In first interview, Sally Yates says Russians had ‘real leverage’ over Flynn

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said in a CNN interview that aired Tuesday morning that Russians had “serious leverage” over former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and that her office had expected the administration to act quickly after she alerted White House counsel Don McGahn on Jan. 26.

In clips of an interview with Anderson Cooper that will air in full Tuesday night, Yates said she considered Flynn’s connections to Russia, and his misleading explanations to Vice President Pence and others, an urgent national security concern.

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

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 8. (Photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Yates herself was fired on Jan. 30, just a few days after her meeting with McGahn. The stated reason was her refusal to defend the administration’s travel ban as it was being challenged in the courts. No action was taken against Flynn until news reports surfaced that, contrary to his denials, he had discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador. President Trump asked for his resignation on Feb. 13.

[ Timeline: The rise and fall of Michael Flynn ]

In the interview, Cooper also asked Yates if she was — as Trump had implied — behind the leaks to the Washington Post about the Flynn story.

“Absolutely not,” said Yates when asked if she leaked the information or had authorized someone to leak the information. “I did not and I would not leak classified information.”

“There have been a number of tweets that have given me pause,” said Yates when asked about the president’s tweet the day of her Capitol Hill testimony last week urging senators to ask her about leaking.

The New Yorker magazine’s Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, interviewed Yates last Thursday. In excerpts from his interview released Tuesday, Yates said that Flynn’s name was not masked in reports about his calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and that — contrary to suggestions from some observers — she would not run for governor of Georgia.

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