Mind the Gap: Democrats Focus on 18-Day Gap, From Yates's Warning to Flynn's Firing

By Susan Jones | May 9, 2017 | 9:48am EDT
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn sits in on a presidential telephone call in the Oval Office. (Screen grab from YouTube)

(CNSNews.com) - A Senate hearing on Monday produced no new information about alleged collusion or coordination between Trump associates and Russian interference in the U.S. election, but it did give Democrats a new line of inquiry, as many of them explained when the hearing ended.

"The headline from today is that the Trump administration waited for two-and-a-half weeks before it took action against Flynn to fire him," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told CNN's Anderson Cooper Monday night. Blumenthal said "Michael Flynn might still be there" if it weren't for a Feb. 9 Washington Post report "that in effect, shamed them into getting rid of him. And while he was there for two-and a half weeks, he presented a real national security threat."

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Flynn told Congress on Monday that she informed the White House counsel on January 26 that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn "had misled the vice president and others" about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

The Russians know about Flynn's deception, Yates said, and "that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians."

Trump fired Flynn on February 13, four days after the Washington Post reported that Flynn apparently misled Vice President-elect Mike Pence about his conversation with the Russian ambassador. Pence told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Jan. 15 that Flynn told him he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian in a late-December phone call.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday that the Trump administration "decided to keep someone on for 18 days, and in fact, two days after having this warning (from Yates), allowed him to sit in on  an hour-long telephone call between the president of the United States and Vladimir Putin. This is just not something that anyone can imagine that we should be doing," Klobuchar added.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), appearing on CNN's "New Day," pointed to the "mysterious 18-day gap." "Well, I think if you have evidence from the acting attorney general of the United States that a senior White House staffer may very well be compromised by the Russians, at the minimum you firewall that staffer until you get to the bottom of what is going on. You separate them from classified material. You don't let them make hiring decisions. You keep them out of highly sensitive meetings with foreign officials; you don't put them in the room when the president is on the phone with Vladimir Putin. None of that was done. It also isn't clear that they did very good due diligence about this to look into it themselves."

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe," “The headline to me was, not only was Sally Yates concerned about the lying but also the underlying conduct (of Flynn). I thought that was very significant -- it's not just the deception but what he was being deceptive about. It's also the first real confirmation we had of just how long the present waited before he felt he needed to act; even then, after 18 days, it was only the fact that the deception became public that forced his hand. And obviously that has people asking why? Was this underlying conduct that so troubled Sally Yates something that the president was knowing of, approving of? These are some of the questions left unanswered," Schiff said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told "Morning Joe" on Tuesday, the "bottom line is that the White House waited until there was public reporting on the fact that Flynn was lying, that he had these connections with the (Russians). And had that not come out in public, Michael Flynn might still be the national security director today, they may have ignored those warnings from the attorney general's office, and it just speaks to how ethically compromised this entire White House operation remains, even today."

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius told MSNBC: "This is more trouble for the White House even than they expected. I think the mystery of why Donald Trump did not act when he was given warnings about Mike Flynn's behavior is now a central question. It now goes from, why did he lie about it to Michael Pence, the vice president, to why did the president act as he did? And I think that is a tougher focus for the White House: It goes to what did Trump know about Flynn's conversations with (Russian Ambassador) Kislyak, what was his conversation back in December? And I think those are the next set of issues we're going to focus on," Ignatius said.

While Democrats have shifted their focus to the 18-day gap, Republicans at Monday’s Senate hearing focused on leaks of classified information; the process involved in “unmasking” Americans caught up in foreign surveillance; and Sally Yates’s decision not to defend President Trump’s initial executive order temporarily barring immigration from failed states in the Middle East and Africa.

Trump fired Yates on January 30, saying she “has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.

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