Yates: DOJ feared Russia could blackmail Flynn

Sally Yates was acting U.S. attorney general for 10 days. Michael Flynn was national security adviser for 24 days. Both are causing enormous headaches for the Trump administration for completely opposite reasons. Reporting and testimony on Monday seem to show the Trump transition and administration quite literally ignored the warning signs about Flynn. The White House is now playing defense.

Yates testified for the first time about her role in Flynn's downfall. She told a Senate subcommittee that she warned the White House of Flynn's contacts with the Russian ambassador and that the Department of Justice believed Flynn had been lying to Vice President Pence and the American people about it.

"Not only did we believe that the Russians knew this but that they likely had proof of this information and that created a compromise situation -- a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians," Yates said. "We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the vice president was making false statements to the public and because we believed that Gen. Flynn was possibly compromised."

Yates's testimony has been the subject of much debate and speculation after an earlier date for her to testify before a different committee was canceled over a legal dispute about how much she could say.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper joined Yates at the hearing. He said he was not aware of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign until FBI Director James Comey testified that it was happening. He also warned that Russia likely now feels emboldened to interfere again.

And another notable thing from the hearing is who wasn't there: former national security adviser Susan Rice. The Republican leader of the subcommittee asked Rice to be part of it, but the ranking Democrat did not. She declined because she said the request for her to testify was not bipartisan.

Monday morning, President Trump suggested Yates herself may be responsible for leaks of classified information in the media. He tweeted "Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Yates how information about the conversation between the Russian ambassador and Flynn make it to the Washington Post. Yates replied that she does not know the answer to that.

During a face-to-face meeting in the Oval Office two days after the election, President Obama warned President-elect Trump against hiring Flynn as national security adviser, according to three former Obama administration officials. But White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump staffers didn't think too much of Obama's warning because they knew Obama wasn't a fan of Flynn's.

"This is a guy who was very outspoken in his criticism of President Obama's policies," Spicer said. "So the idea that President Obama didn't like the guy doesn't seem shocking."

President Obama fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. But Flynn was able to maintain his security clearance and had it renewed in April 2016.

President Trump pointed the finger at his predecessor on Twitter: "General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration - but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that."

"So if President Obama or anyone else frankly in the government was concerned, the question should be asked 'What did they do?' and if nothing, then why not if they really truly were concerned?" Spicer said.