Blackmail, Unmasking, and Partisan Politics: The Flynn Case Continues on Capitol Hill

As expected, this hearing was sharply divided among political lines.

There were certainly a few moments and takeaways that stood out from the Capitol Hill testimony of Sally Yates and James Clapper concerning Russian influence in the November election.

  • Sally Yates made the point, and an effective one, that due to his relationships with Russian officials, Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail from the Russians. During her testimony, Yates said she warned the White House about Flynn in two meetings with White House Counsel Don McGahn. Michael Flynn was dismissed some 18 days later.
  • An “independent investigation” of this issue will likely be proffered and used as a political weapon for Democrats. The goal is to make this a campaign issue for 2018 and 2020 — much like Rep. Darrell Issa made investigations his priority during the Obama administration.
  • Senator Chuck Grassley asked James Clapper and Yates if either of them viewed classified documents where Mr. Trump, his associates, and members of Congress had been unmasked. They each replied Yes, but said they didn’t share that information with the media.
  • There was no confirmation of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian associates and there has not been any evidence that Russia changed a vote on election day.
  • Lindsey Graham pressed Mr. Clapper and Sally Yates about who unmasked Michael Flynn to the Washington Post, perhaps paving the way for a Susan Rice subpoena.
  • Senator Ted Cruz sparred with Yates over her decision to defy President Trump’s immigration executive order that led to her firing. Yates stated the order was “unconstitutional” and could not in good conscience send her attorneys into a courtroom to defend the order.

Where do we go from here? Likely the announcement of an “independent investigation” is coming. We will also likely hear the push for Susan Rice to testify before a congressional or senatorial committee regarding the unmasking of Trump associates and surveillance issues. Senator Lindsey Graham also noted that there will be a classified meeting between the committee members and at least Yates and Clapper, where questions that were not answered in this hearing, will be answered behind closed doors.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/AARON P. BERNSTEIN