WASHINGTON ― One day after former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified before a Senate subcommittee on her warning to the White House that former national security adviser Mike Flynn was compromised because of his communications with Russia, White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday provided little clarity on why the White House did not fire Flynn soon after her warning.
Spicer insisted that “we’re not looking to re-litigate this,” though multiple investigations are looking into the extent of ties between Russian officials and President Donald Trump’s aides.
As he frequently does, Spicer dismissed reporters’ repeated questions, giving vague answers on the timeline of Flynn’s downfall.
“We are not going to re-litigate the past on this,” Spicer said again. “We have been very clear as to what happened and why it happened. I think the president made the right decision and we have moved on.”
When asked why the White House waited to take action on Flynn, Spicer claimed that Yates’ initial warning was simply “a heads-up” and required a further meeting with the White House counsel’s office “to discuss certain issues that she had left unclear at the time.”
But on Monday, Yates testified that her message to the White House was very clear.
“To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians,” she said.
Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation on Feb. 13, after a Washington Post report revealed that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about discussing U.S. sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December. But Yates had warned the White House about Flynn on Jan. 26.
Spicer again defended the president, saying that he “took decisive action,” despite waiting 18 days after Yates’ warning to ask for Flynn’s resignation.
“They did what you should do, frankly, is an element of due process: reviewing the situation,” he said of the White House counsel’s office. “They informed the president right away after they were informed of her giving us a heads-up and ultimately, the president made the right decision.”
Spicer said he was not aware of security restrictions on Flynn in those 18 days. Despite Yates’ warning to the White House, Flynn was present in meetings with high-level officials and sat in on a phone call between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Spicer also claimed that the White House was not able to view documents of evidence against Flynn until Feb. 2. But Yates testified that the materials were available on Jan. 30, just four days after she gave her initial warning.