Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conduct after his phone calls with Russia’s ambassador may have been illegal, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates said in a new interview.
“There’s certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct,” Yates told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview airing Tuesday night.
The interview is Yates’ first televised sit-down since she testified last week before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about Flynn, a retired lieutenant-general.
Yates did not elaborate on how Flynn may have broken the law. But she indicated during her testimony last week that Flynn’s potential criminal activity may have occurred in an interview he had with the FBI on Jan. 24 about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Transcripts of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak reportedly showed that he discussed U.S. sanctions that the Obama administration had placed against Russia in response to its meddling in the presidential campaign.
The pair spoke multiple times in late December.
Flynn was fired on Feb. 13 after the White House said that he misled Vice President Mike Pence by saying sanctions were not discussed in the call with Kislyak. While misleading Pence would likely not be illegal, lying to the FBI is a crime.
Yates met with White House general counsel Donald McGahn on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 to discuss the Flynn situation. She said last week and in her interview with Cooper that she told McGahn that Flynn’s inconsistent statements made him a blackmail target for the Russians.
She also said that she expected the White House to act immediately, though she said she declined to make a recommendation that he be fired.
Yates also disputed the White House’s claims that Flynn was fired due to trust issues and not because of legal concerns.
“I don’t know how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue. It certainly wasn’t from my discussion with them,” she told Cooper.
Yates said during last week’s testimony that she and McGahn discussed whether Flynn’s behavior was illegal. She did not directly say that Flynn broke the law.