Sally Yates is testifying to Senate, but James Comey may feel the heat
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover whose interactions with the early Trump administration generated controversy and strife, is testifying Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee investigating the discredited Russia collusion probe.
While Yates will be in the witness chair, it may very well be the fired FBI Director James Comey who will feel like he’s in the hot seat.
Yates’ official narrative, recorded in a FBI memo, was that Comey refused to follow the DOJ’s instructions and procedures during a key moment in the Russia probe in January 2017, a behavior similarly exhibited by the ex-director a year earlier when he unilaterally chose to announce in July 2016 that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t face charges in the email scandal — without legal authority to do so.
Before Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished his probe by concluding there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Yates had told the FBI agents assisting Mueller that she had serious reservations about Comey’s conduct related to investigating then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Yates told the FBI, according to the official interview report, that the Comey FBI seemed cavalier and unwilling to follow protocol and “it was not always clear what exactly the FBI was doing to investigate Flynn.”
In other words, the FBI was searching for a crime to charge Flynn with, especially after Justice officials were cool to the idea of charging the Trump adviser under the obscure Logan Act for his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Yates said during the interview the FBI seemed more gung-ho about the Logan Act, while prosecutors in DOJ’s National Security Division were reluctant to use the law.
“The feeling among NSD attorneys was Flynn’s behavior was a technical violation of the Logan Act, but they were not sure this would have a lot of jury appeal, or if pursuing it would be a good use of the power of the Justice Department. Yates had the impression the FBI was more eager to pursue prosecution initially,” Yates’ interview summary states.
You can read that FBI interview report here.
While the debate lingered on, Yates became shocked to learn Comey had refused her specific instruction to brief the White House about Flynn and had instead sent two agents to interview the Trump adviser without following proper protocol.
Yates said her concern was not about prosecuting Flynn as much as it was alerting the new Trump White House that Flynn’s account of his call with the Russian diplomat to Vice President Mike Pence might not have been accurate.
Ordinarily, FBI interview reports are dry reading. But the section of Yates’ interview about her frustration with Comey reads more like a political drama.