President Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning to publicly advise a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on how to question former U.S. Interim Attorney General Sally Yates during her testimony this afternoon. In his tweet, he appeared to accuse Yates of leaking classified information, a felony, to the press, even though he had no evidence to back this up.
“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council,” Trump tweeted.
Trump later deleted this tweet, then posted it again with “Council” corrected to “Counsel.”
Yates was called to testify before the Senate committee as part of the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The testimony will start at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Yates will likely be asked about Michael T. Flynn’s controversial relationship with Russia. Flynn was Trump’s first National Security Adviser, but was fired after it was discovered that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the same day President Barack Obama imposed more sanctions against Russia.
However, Flynn only resigned after anonymous officials told the Washington Post on February 13 that Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel told the Trump White House after the inauguration that she thought Flynn lied about his communications with Kislyak and could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
On May 5, The Washington Post reported that Trump Transition team members warned Flynn about communicating with Kislyak weeks before the fateful conversation in December.
Ahead of Yates’ testimony, Trump also tweeted that Flynn was “given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that.” This was in reference to the fact that Flynn was Obama’s Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but Trump forgot to note that Obama fired Flynn in August 2014.
Trump’s morning tweets came after an Axios report that the White House plans to “smear” Yates as a “Democratic operative,” even though she had been in the Department of Justice for two decades and served under presidents of both parties.
The Administration is also going to try to distance Flynn from Trump, but that might not be possible. Axios also reported, citing a “source familiar with the President’s thinking,” that Trump still holds Flynn in high regard and never gave administration officials clearance to attack Flynn.
Axios reports that Trump wants to stress that Flynn’s 2015 trip to Russia for a paid speech came under an “Obama security clearance.” This was a point White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to stress in April. Still, Spicer said the administration doesn’t regret firing Flynn.
“The president made the right decision at the right time,” Spicer said on April 27. “He made the right decision, and we’ve looked forward.”