The White House reviewed the evidence that led the Justice Department to believe then-national security adviser Michael Flynn was “compromised” with regard to Russia in early February, Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed Tuesday. The administration reviewed that evidence for nearly two weeks before asking for Flynn’s resignation “to make sure that we did the right thing,” he said.
“When you look at this compared to other instances, the idea that in 11 days, a review was conducted, the President acted decisively,” Spicer said. “I think that actually shows the system worked properly.”
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said Monday that she informed White House Counsel Don McGahn about the DOJ’s concerns about Flynn’s conduct in a meeting on Jan. 26; followed up with him in another meeting on Jan. 27; and told him in a Jan. 30 phone call that, after she consulted with the FBI, Trump administration officials would be allowed to view the same evidence on Flynn that raised alarm bells for the DOJ.
Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcomittee that she didn’t know whether the White House ended up looking at that evidence because she was fired for refusing to enforce President Donald Trump’s initial travel ban shortly after she spoke with McGahn by phone.
“The White House didn’t get access to that underlying evidence described by Miss Yates until Thursday, Feb. 2, which is a week after Miss Yates first met with the White House counsel,” Spicer said. “And then that’s when I think the full sort of review began. Once they had had access to that information.”
Trump was briefed on Jan. 26 about Yates’ conversation with McGahn, and subsequently informed that the DOJ’s evidence would be reviewed, according to the timeline Spicer laid out in Tuesday’s press briefing.
Spicer explained that there was an 18-day delay between Yates first meeting with McGahn and Flynn’s firing because the White House needed to offer Flynn “an element of due process.” He downplayed what Yates framed as an urgent conversation about the need to take action against Flynn, repeatedly referring to her meetings with McGahn as a mere “heads-up.”
Referring to Yates, a 27-year veteran DOJ prosecutor, as “an Obama appointee,” Spicer said, “You have someone who you have to wonder why they are telling you something, to the point where they had to come back a second time because what they were saying was unclear.”
He repeatedly invoked this second meeting between Yates and McGahn, which the former acting attorney general testified was held at the White House counsel’s request, to suggest that Yates did a shoddy job relaying information about Flynn.
“I would suggest that the reason she was asked to come back the second day was because it wasn’t—it clearly wasn’t that clear on the first day,” Spicer said. “So I think logic dictates you don’t ask someone to come back and explain themselves a second time if they have done an effective job the first time. But again, I’m not going to get into needling every little point about what happened.”