Former acting AG Yates says she signed bogus FISA requests to spy on Trump campaign because it’s not her job to do fact-checking

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates continued clinging to the possibility that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to get elected in 2016, testifying in the Senate that she couldn’t opine on whether he’s guilty.

Asked Wednesday by Louisiana Republican John Kennedy whether Trump violated the law by somehow colluding with Russia, Yates said the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller found insufficient evidence of a conspiracy between Trump and Russian officials. “Do you agree with that?” Kennedy then asked. “I wasn’t part of that investigation,” she said.

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“So there’s some doubt in your mind?” he asked. “Senator, I didn’t say that. I’m not in a position to opine on that when all I’ve done is read the Mueller Report,” Yates replied. “You just can’t bring yourself to say that he didn’t violate the law,” Kennedy said. “No, senator, You’re putting words in my mouth.”

The testy exchange was part of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the origins of the FBI’s investigation into alleged Russian collusion and the subsequent probe by Mueller. Pressed by Kennedy on her opinion of Trump, Yates said, “I don’t respect the manner in which he has carried out the presidency.” Kennedy countered: “You despise Donald Trump, don’t you?” Yates said, “I don’t despise anyone, senator.”

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While Yates refused to concede that anyone at the FBI was motivated by a desire to stop Trump from becoming president, she acknowledged that applications she signed for FISA warrants to surveil Trump aide Carter Page were based largely on the infamous Steele dossier, which contained false information.

“I believe that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI have a duty of candor with the FISA court that was not met,” Yates said. Pressed by Senator Lindsey Graham on whether she would have signed the applications in October 2016 and January 2017 if she knew then what she knows now, she said, “If I had known it contained incorrect information, I certainly wouldn’t have signed it.”

Yates testified that she made no independent efforts to verify the Steele dossier because it was the FBI’s role to be the factfinder for FISA warrant applications.

Senators also questioned Yates over the DOJ’s case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. She said she was frustrated that former FBI director James Comey “unilaterally” sent agents to interview Flynn about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the transition between Trump’s election in November 2016 and his inauguration in January 2017.

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Yates said she would have preferred that information about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak be reported directly to the White House, but the FBI did the interview that led to Flynn’s indictment without coordinating with her. She added, though, that the FBI had a legitimate basis for doing the interview and that she found it “highly irregular” when Attorney General William Barr sought to throw out the case against Flynn last May.

Flynn urged Moscow not to overreact to the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia and engage in a tit-for-tat escalation that would have “boxed in” incoming President Trump. The conversations “neutered” the sanctions, Yates claimed. But Graham said, “The only problem here is that you didn’t like Flynn changing the policy or talking about changing the policy. What we’re doing here is criminalizing policy differences.”

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