May 8, 2017

Sally Yates confirms she warned White House about Flynn

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Former deputy attorney general Sally Yates and former DNI James Clapper are testifying before a Senate subcommittee about Russian interference in last fall's presidential election.

The big thing: Yates confirmed that she had warned the White House counsel in January that Michael Flynn misled officials about his discussions with the Russian ambassador to the United States, in part out of fear that Flynn would be blackmailed by Russia.

  • On Flynn: Yates said Flynn's conduct was "problematic," as was the fact that Mike Pence was unwittingly misleading the American people. She said she wanted to give the White House the opportunity to "take action."
  • On leaking: Yates and Clapper both stated that they had never been an anonymous source to a reporter — and that they had not been questioned by the FBI regarding leaks.
  • On not defending Trump's travel ban: "All arguments have to be based on truth. We're the Department of Justice, not a law firm...it was unlawful." She says despite being acting A.G. she learned of the order through media reports.

Yates' reasoning for telling the White House about Flynn:

"The underlying conduct that Gen. Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself.""We felt that the Vice President and others were entitled to know that the information they were conveying to the American people was untrue.""We were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what Gen. Flynn had done.""The Russians also knew what Gen. Flynn had done and that Gen. Flynn had misled the Vice President and others…that created a compromise situation — a situation where the national security advisor essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians."More live updates:

  • Compartmentalized investigation: Clapper said in his opening statement that he was not aware of the FBI's investigation into Trump campaign associates' possible links to Russia until James Comey confirmed its existence to the House Intel Committee in March.
  • A question from WH for Yates: "What does it matter if one White House official lies to another?"
  • Yates sums it up: "Logic would tell you that you don't want the national security advisor to be in a situation where the Russians have leverage over him."
  • Yates says she was not aware of any efforts by the White House to restrict Flynn's access to classified information.
  • Changing the topic: Ted Cruz focused his questioning on everything from Hillary Clinton's emails to Yates' refusal to defend Trump's travel ban.

For new readers: Check out our newsletters, including Axios AM.

Go deeper

Japan to close schools through late March to control coronavirus outbreak

A couple takes photos in front of the Olympic rings in Tokyo. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that the government will ask elementary, middle and high schools around the country to close until late March as an attempt to contain its novel coronavirus outbreak, AP reports.

Why it matters: The government's decision — impacting 12.8 million students across 34,847 schools — comes as concerns mount about the spread of the virus in Japan, which has 189 confirmed cases and hundreds more abroad the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Go deeper: The latest coronavirus updates

What the coronavirus means for Trump's presidency

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A poor response to the coronavirus could be politically devastating for President Trump, and so far his administration has given the strong impression that it’s still scrambling as the risk of a pandemic mounts.

Why it matters: There’s only so much any president can do to stop a virus from spreading, and for now the coronavirus is still very much under control within the U.S. But if the disease get worse in the months ahead, and if the administration seems to be caught off guard, that spells trouble for public confidence in Trump.

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health