House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, who has been under a firestorm over allegedly trying to shield the White House in the Trump Russia investigation, reportedly canceling a hearing where former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was due to testify.
As it turns out, Nunes’ move came on the same day that the White House objected to him about her planned testimony.
Yates served as the Acting Attorney General during a short period in the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations while then-Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination was moving through the Senate confirmation process. She was fired immediately after she refused to defend in court President Trump’s initial executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the same executive order that has been blocked by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the wake of her firing, reports broke that Yates had notified the White House during the first week of the administration that then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been in contact with Russian officials, contrary to his public assertions and apparently, contrary to what he had told Vice President Mike Pence.
U.S. intelligence, including the FBI, was concerned that Flynn would be at risk of blackmail by Russian officials based on his public denials.
Flynn was asked to resign in the days following the revelation. The Washington Post report that documents showing that the Justice Department told Yates that her testimony would have to be seriously limited because of the assertion of executive privilege, a legal protection for the executive branch in certain cases.
A series of letters by a Justice Department official told Yates’ lawyer, David O’Neill, that she would need “consent” from the White House in order to discuss her conversations with the White House.
According to the Post, the government was told last week that the testimony by Yates and former CIA Director John Brennan would be in conflict with comments made by White House staff. The day following that revelation, Nunes announced that he was canceling the hearing where the two were going to testify. Other commentators appear to have been able to confirm that Yates’ testimony was going to be explosive and speculation of a cover up are growing.
On Sunday evening, former CIA Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash told MSNBC’s Brian Williams just that:
The Democratic National Committee issued a statement once the new facts came to light. “Now we know why Chairman Nunes canceled the hearing today. This isn’t an investigation into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — it’s a cover up,” said DNC aide Zac Petkanas in the statement released on Tuesday.