I have previously been critical of the stance taken by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. I remained unconvinced that Yates had the ethical basis to order for the entire Justice Department to stand down and not to assist the president in the defense of his first executive order on immigration. I also questioned Yates’ decision to voluntarily testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She was testifying as someone who was recently in a prosecutorial position about subjects related to an ongoing investigation where no one has yet to be indicted. Now those concerns have been magnified by Yates’ appearance in the media to talk about matters center to the ongoing investigation at the Justice Department and other related subjects.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Yates discussed how former national security adviser Michael Flynn was in a “serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage.” Such statements are unfair to someone like Flynn who is the target of a federal investigation but not indicted on any crime. Ironically, many criticized Trump for allegedly asking former FBI Director James Comey about the pending investigation of Flynn. Additionally, many criticized Comey for discussing the details of alleged violations by Hillary Clinton despite her not being indicted. Yates’ discussion of matters related to the investigation raise equal concerns. This type of public commentary can also hurt Yates’ colleagues who are still working the case. She can indicate the perceived strength or interpretation of evidence. That can affect the willingness of witnesses to cooperate with the investigators. Finally, it can discourage targets from speaking with prosecutors if they fear that they can go public at any time and comment on their presumed guilt or vulnerability.
Yates also told Anderson that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence and there was “certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct.” She added “Whether he is fired or not is a decision by the President of the United States to make, but it doesn’t seem like that’s a person who should be sitting in the national security adviser position.”
Relying on her knowledge from the open investigation, Yates declared on television that the Russian had “real leverage” over Flynn.