Not since…well, since the Hillary Clinton celebration party…has the air been let out of liberal balloons so dramatically. Trump haters all over the country were salivating at the prospect of what former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates would say in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. Never underestimate a woman scorned! Yates was fired by Trump after refusing to defend his travel ban in court, and she was ready to have her revenge. She was going to blow the lid off the whole Michael Flynn/Russia/Traitor-in-the-White-House saga, and it would only be a matter of time before Donald Trump was facing impeachment charges.
As it turned out, Yates’s testimony was competent, reserved, and completely lacking in drama of any kind.
While Yates covered all the bases in her testimony – besides those questions she refused to answer because doing so would reveal classified information – she revealed very little new information to the public. The end result: She apparently gave the Senate what they wanted, but she certainly didn’t satisfy the curiosity of those who really want to know the truth on a number of key issues. Questions remain. Many of them.
One of the biggest questions: What, exactly, did Michael Flynn do that was so bad? On this subject, the general assumption in the media is that he discussed lifting U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador before lying to Trump officials about it. That resulted in Vice President Mike Pence and others going on TV to repeat Flynn’s untruths, presumably leaving Flynn open to blackmail by Russian officials.
But when the subject came up in the hearing, it didn’t seem quite so simple.
“The first thing we did was to explain to [White House Counsel Don] McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” Yates said of her January meeting.
But when the senators asked her what it was that Flynn had done, she skirted the issue.
“My knowledge of his underlying conduct is based on classified information,” Yates said. “And so I can’t reveal what that underlying conduct is.”
This has gone underreported, but it could explain why President Trump is apparently telling his top aides to go easy on Flynn when it comes to public criticism. Trump was left with no choice but to fire Flynn in February – Pence would have likely resigned otherwise – but he has maintained all along that he believes his former national security adviser did nothing wrong. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador during the transition. It’s debatable whether or not it was even “wrong” for him to bring up the sanctions, although none of us have seen the transcripts so it’s hard to say.
Also unanswered (to our satisfaction, anyway): Why Yates refused to defend Trump’s executive order banning travel to the U.S. from several Middle Eastern countries. She claimed at the time that it was unconstitutional, but we’ve yet to hear why she made that determination. Well, we should say, we’ve yet to hear any GOOD reason. The reason she gave – that she took Trump’s campaign statements into account – is unacceptable and has nothing to do with the Constitution.
It is, unfortunately, the very same extralegal foundation the courts are using to block the order, so Yates is in good company…
All in all, this was a well-hyped nothingburger, and it proved once again that the Democrats have next to nothing to connect Trump officials to the Russian hacks of last year.
Which brings us to the next unanswered question: How much longer will they embarrass themselves at the expense of the country?