Head of USA intelligence inquiry refuses to step aside

Then-Deputy Attorney General nominee Sally Quillian Yates in 2015
AP Then Deputy Attorney General nominee Sally Quillian Yates in 2015

07 April, 2017

Certainly, it seems to have enough to haul the whole matter into court to delay Yates' testimony.

"No one really knows what she does exactly", a source close to the administration told The Hill. The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia's role in the election, wants to question Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, about meetings he held with the Russian ambassador and a Russian banker in December. Flynn resigned in February, which the White House said was due to the contradictory statements he made to Vice President Mike Pence. Not only that but the Russians' knowledge about what Flynn had said left him open to blackmail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned.

The statement came after The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration sought to block Yates' testimony before Congress. The Post cited letters from Yates' attorneys to the Justice Department. Later, in a briefing with reporters, he was given a chance to clarify more broadly - so executive privilege would not be an issue for Yates?

The development has increased partisan tension over the neutrality of the House panel's Russian Federation investigation amid concerns about Republican chairman Rep. Devin Nunes' independence from the White House.

Nunes announced last week without providing a source that he had information Trump associates may have been ensnared in incidental intelligence collection before the president took office in January.

"If you become a White House whisperer, you are not independent", she said on CNN. Nunes said Tuesday he would not.

The chairman did not tell the top Democrat on the committee about the meeting at the White House complex.

Spicer wasn't just irked by reporters trying to create and sustain the appearance of a Russian Federation scandal.

"No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone, and I don't say that lightly", McCain told MSNBC's Greta Van Susteren last week.

So the House Intelligence Committee saga rolls on, at least in name only. The first hearing held by the committee got off to a strong start, with F.B.I. director James Comey revealing that the bureau had, indeed, been investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation since last summer. Why did he then go running off to the White House to brief Trump personally?

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Meanwhile, the next story arc is expected to get underway later this week when the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee step into the center ring. If a woman sits down at your table and tells you she's a lawyer who likes to relax with a little poker, and introduces herself as Sally Yates, run like hell and don't stop until you get to the Arctic Circle.

Democrat Jim Himes of CT told MSNBC's Morning Joe that Nunes has scrapped all meetings and open hearings that were scheduled for this week. "She need not obtain separate consent from the department".

Then Spicer let loose on reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks for continuing to push the narrative of a scandal in the Russian Federation story.

It's a legal tactic created to elicit a response, but the White House says they did not respond, therefore, they did not block Yates from testifying, they claim.

In the letters, attorney David O'Neil said he understood the Justice Department was invoking "further constraints" on testimony Yates could provide at a committee hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Flynn left the administration in February after acknowledging that he had not given the White House a full account of his conversations with Kislyak. Trump fired Yates during the first weeks of his administration when she refused to mount a defense of the president's legally doomed travel ban targeting 7 Muslim nations.

Yates may still appear before Nunes and Schiff's committee, Schiff said on Tuesday, but no hearings are on the calendar and the process is still in disarray after a odd back-and-forth last week. He declined to share the documents with his fellow committee members - even Republicans - and it later emerged he didn't even have them in his possession.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hardly held back the criticism for Nunes on NBC's "Today" Tuesday morning.

"The public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president's campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman", Schiff said.

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