Trump Administration Sought to Block Sally Yates
from Testifying to Congress on Russia
By Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous
March 28, 2017 at 7:28 PM
A shorter URL for the above link:
The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying in the House investigation of possible links between Russian officials and Donald Trumps campaign, according to letters provided to The Washington Post. The effort to keep Yates from testifying has further angered Democrats, who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.
According to the letters, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers her possible testimony including on the ouster of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for his contacts with the Russian ambassador to be off-limits in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by attorney-client privilege or the presidential communication privilege.
The issue of Yatess testimony adds to the political controversy surrounding the House Intelligence Committees investigation of Russian meddling in last years election and any possible coordination between Trump associates and Moscow.
David ONeil, an attorney for Yates, met at the Justice Department to discuss the issue with government officials on Thursday. At the meeting, ONeil presented a letter in which he said the Justice Department had advised him that Yatess official communications on issues of interest to the House panel are client confidences that cannot be disclosed without written consent. ONeil challenged that interpretation as overbroad in the letter.
The following day, in a letter to ONeil, the Justice Department responded with another objection: that Yatess communications with the White House are probably covered by presidential communications privilege, and referred him to the White House.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
ONeil then wrote to White House Counsel Donald McGahn, saying that he believed any privilege had been waived as a result of past White House statements and that Yates planned to testify unless he heard back from McGahn.
But that same day, the hearing, which also would have included former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., was canceled by the House Intelligence Committees chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and any White House decision on Yatess testimony became moot.
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