During Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) connected the dots and offered the world a possible reason as to why President Trump waited nearly three weeks to fire “compromised” former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House’s top lawyers that Flynn could be susceptible to blackmail by the Russians.
“The intelligence communities have concluded, all 17 of them, that Russia interfered with this election, and we all know that’s right,” Franken told former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Sally Yates.
“One of the questions is why do [Russians] favor Donald Trump?” Franked explained. “There are a number of contacts and communications that between Trump campaign officials and associates and members of the Trump administration, Jeff Sessions as Senator Leahy mentioned.”
“Carter Page, a former campaign advisor, Paul Manafort who was a former campaign manager and chief strategist, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, friend of Russia war (ph) Roger Stone, and of course, Jared Kushner, White House senior advisor, Simon Law (ph) and Michael Flynn. All — that’s a lot, in — in my mind.”
“Now, going to Flynn, he appeared during the campaign on Russia Today. Russia Today is the propaganda arm of the Russian government. General, since you’ve retired have you appeared on Russia Today?”
“No, not wittingly, no,” Clapper replied.
“Okay. And Flynn received $37,000 for sitting next to [Russian president Vladimir] Putin at the tenth anniversary of Russia Today. All this seems very odd to me and raised a lot of questions.”
Yates explained that she addressed those concerns directly to the Trump administration. And how did the White House respond? They asked Yates why it is “an issue for the Department of Justice if one White House official lies to another.”
“Okay, I don’t understand why he didn’t understand that,” Franken said. “General Flynn after that for 18 days stayed [at the White House]. There are policies that deal with who gets clearance, security clearance and not. Executive Order 12986 outlines the rules for security clearances, and it says that when there’s a credible allegation that raises concern about someone’s fitness to access classified information, that person’s clearance should be suspended pending investigation.”
“The executive order also states the clearance holders must always demonstrate, quote, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion and sound judgment, as well as freedom from allegiances and potential for coercion,” Franken continued. “And yet the White House counsel did not understand why the Department of Justice was concerned? “
“The president was told about this in late January, according to the press secretary, so now he’s got a guy who has been … clearly compromised. He’s lied to the vice president, and [Trump] keeps him on, and he lets him be in all these classified meetings,” Franken continued.
“Is it possible that the reason that he didn’t fire him then was that, well, if I fire him for talking to the Russians about sanctions, what about all the other people on my team who coordinated?” Franked asked
“I mean, isn’t it possible that the reason—because you ask yourselves, why wouldn’t you fire a guy who did this? And all I can think of is that he would say, well, we’ve got all these other people in the administration who have had contacts,” he added. “We have all these other people in the administration who coordinated, who were talking.”
“We’re trying to put a puzzle together here, everybody,” Franken said. “And maybe, just maybe, he didn’t get rid of a guy who lied to the vice president, who got paid by the Russians, who went on Russia Today because there are other people in his administration who met secretly with the Russians and didn’t reveal it until later—until they were caught.”
“That may be why it took him 18 days—until it came public—to get rid of Mike Flynn, who was a danger to this republic,” Franken said.