President Obama’s ambassador to Russia and a former director of CIA operations in Russia are casting doubt on former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ claim that former national security adviser Michael Flynn opened himself up to blackmail by the Russian government.
“Seems unlikely,” Michael McFaul, Obama’s ambassador to Russia, tweeted on Tuesday.
On Monday, Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she warned the White House in January that Flynn was susceptible to kompromot, the term for Russian blackmail, because he made conflicting statements about his phone conversations with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. (RELATED: Yates Told White House That Flynn Could Be Blackmailed By The Russians)
“We believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians,” Yates said. “To state the obvious, you don’t want the national security adviser compromised by the Russians.”
Yates, who was fired by President Trump on Jan. 30, said that it is believed that the Russian government had recordings of Flynn’s call.
Flynn spoke with Kislyak in December, just before and after the Obama administration slapped new sanctions on Russia for its cyber attacks during the presidential campaign.
But Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations, saying that sanctions were not discussed. And Yates implied that Flynn misled the FBI during a Jan. 24 interview about his conversations with Kislyak.
President Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13 because of his false statements to Pence.
But McFaul, who has been heavily critical of President Trump and Flynn, wondered how a Russian blackmail operation against Flynn would have actually played out.
Steven Hall, the former director of CIA operations in Russia, concurred with McFaul’s analysis.
“Kind of a stretch,” he said of Yates’ claim.
McFaul added later that the more troubling aspect of the Flynn saga is that he appeared too cozy with the Kremlin, not that he was a blackmail target.
“Flynn’s actual behavior, not threat of hypothetical future blackmail, needs to remain the focus of attention,” he said.
“Focus on Russians having chance to ‘blackmail’ Flynn is misleading. Flynn was cooperating with Russians, not being blackmailed by them.”