Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said that asking an FBI director for his loyalty, as President Donald Trump reportedly did, is “inappropriate” and that she had “serious questions” about the timing of his subsequent firing of James Comey.
Yates, speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper in her first television interview following her own firing by Trump, said the ongoing blowout over Comey’s dismissal was a “really troubling situation.”
“I think there are serious questions about both the timing and the motivation of the president’s actions,” Yates said in an interview that aired Tuesday. “The explanations seem to change on almost an hourly basis right now. It seems to me that there’s only one truth and we ought to get to that.”
Sally Yates on the Comey firing: “I think there are serious questions about both the timing and the motivation” https://t.co/pfx4jRGP0a— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) May 17, 2017
Throughout the 30-minute interview, Yates spoke about the months of turmoil faced by the Trump administration since she was was fired for refusing to defend the White House’s first attempt at a travel ban targeting residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Many of her responses echoed those made during her testimony to a Senate subcommittee this month, but she said recent news events, like last week’s New York Times report that said Trump asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him at a private dinner, ran contrary to the mission at the Department of Justice, where she worked for 27 years.
“Our loyalty at the Department of Justice should be to the people of the United States and to the law and the Constitution, and no one and nothing else,” Yates said, noting she “wouldn’t have done it” if Trump asked her for her own pledge to him.
Yates also recounted her attempt to warn the administration that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was likely “compromised,” news that was reported by The Washington Post shortly after her dismissal.
“The Russians also knew that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others,” Yates testified to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, noting a situation was created “where the national security adviser could essentially be blackmailed.”
The White House has played down Yates’ warnings, with Trump just last week telling NBC News’ Lester Holt that the situation “did not sound like an emergency.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer has repeatedly referred to Yates’ initial meeting about Flynn with White House Counsel Don McGahn as simply “a heads up.”
In Tuesday’s interview, Yates said that wasn’t the case.
“Mr. McGahn got it. He knew that it was serious and it was important … there was nothing casual about this,” Yates told Cooper. “I know that we conveyed a sense of urgency.”
Yates said recent news could have a “chilling effect” at the DOJ and alluded that her own ouster could stoke worry among career officials.
“They should be able to do their jobs without any fear at all,” she said.
Yates: Our loyalty at the Department of Justice should be to the people of the US, and the law and the Constitution https://t.co/sH4xc8G3Uq— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) May 17, 2017
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