Senate panel hears testimony from former Obama officials on Russian interference

In a much anticipated appearance Monday, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism to testify on a multitude of issues related to allegations Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Although the hearings were broadcast as bipartisan, Republican members of the panel tended to fixate their line of questioning on Ms. Yates’ refusal to obey President Trump’s January executive order placing a moratorium on foreign travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations and the exposing of identities of U.S. citizens captured in incidental surveillance conducted by American intelligence services.

Democrats, however, tended to remain attached to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s contacts with officials in the Russian embassy; many Democrats on the panel also took time to defend Ms. Yates’ actions as acting attorney general.

Among the highlights of Monday’s session:  Ms. Yates testified she had warned Trump transition officials of Flynn’s risk to blackmail; Clapper admitted his office saw no evidence of Russia “influencing voter tallies in any of the 50 states;” and Clapper also doubled down on his assertion Russian did meddle with the November election with the aim of aiding Trump.

In addition to concerns over Flynn and Russian hacking allegations, both Yates and Clapper were cross examined over the “unmasking” of Trump officials.

Asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) if either had ever reviewed documents in which President Trump, associates of his or members of Congress had been unmasked, both Clapper and Yates replied “yes,” but both declined to expand on details over security concerns.

Following the admission they had reviewed documents with Trump or his associates “unmasked,” both admitted they discussed as much with department colleagues or intelligence officials.  Neither were able to provide details into their conversations over the matter.

Yates was sacked at the end of January for her refusal to present arguments in court defending President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travelers from seven Middle Eastern or African countries.

Clapper resigned as DNI on Nov. 17, 2016.


[Business Insider] [Reuters] [RT America] [Washington Post/YouTube] [Photo courtesy Kevin Dietsch/UPI]