Right-Wing Media Outlets Echo Trump's Unfounded Smears Of Sally Yates

››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

Right-wing media outlets are echoing smears from President Donald Trump and his administration against former acting Attorney General Sally Yates leading up to her Senate testimony regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Their dubious claim that Yates is a Democratic partisan comes from a single disgraced Bush-era State Department official who resigned after “impeding ongoing criminal investigations in Iraq,” while their claim that she leaked classified information has not been independently substantiated by anyone with knowledge of the situation.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates To Testify About Former Trump Aide Michael Flynn’s Connections To Russia

Sally Yates Will Testify On Her Warnings About Flynn’s Connection To Russia. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates will testify before a Senate subcommittee on May 8 regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to USA Today. Yates is expected to mention that she “alerted White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before [President Donald] Trump's inauguration,” meaning Flynn could have been “vulnerable to possible blackmail.” Flynn later resigned after “Yates' warnings were made public.” From the May 8 article:

For the first time publicly, Yates is expected to recount to a Senate panel a Jan. 26 meeting in which she alerted White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump's inauguration. Those misrepresentations, Yates would maintain, made the former Army lieutenant general vulnerable to possible blackmail.

[...]

What remains troubling about Flynn's contacts, according to officials who have previously described the communications, was that the former general had talked with the ambassador about sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Those conversations were secretly monitored by federal authorities, as are most communications involving foreign diplomats.

[...]

Shortly after Yates' warnings were made public, Flynn was forced to resign, ending the shortest tenure of any president's national security adviser – while stoking further suspicion about the ties between Trump associates and Russian officials. [USA Today, 5/8/17]

Trump And His Administration Attempt To Smear Yates Before Testimony

Trump Administration Falsely Claims Yates Is A “Democratic Operative.” According to Axios, Trump administration officials are planning to “brand Yates as a Democratic operative who was out to get Trump from the beginning and willing to torque the facts to advance her agenda.” [Axios, 5/7/16]

Trump: “Ask Sally Yates, Under Oath, If She Knows How Classified Information Got Into The Newspapers Soon After She Explained It To W.H. Counsel.”

[Twitter, 5/8/17]

There Is No Proof For The Smears Against Yates

Claim That Yates Is A “Loyal Democrat” Comes From Single Bush-Era State Department Inspector General Who Resigned After Impeding “Ongoing Criminal Investigations” In Iraq. The claim that Yates is a “loyal Democrat” comes from former Bush-era State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard in a January 31, 2016, New York Post report. According to a December 7, 2007, report by McClatchy, Krongard was forced out of the State Department “for allegedly impeding ongoing criminal investigations into the construction of a new, $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and security firm Blackwater Worldwide.” He also “came under fire from his own investigators and from a congressional panel for allegedly blocking probes into serious claims of wrongdoing in Iraq.” [New York Post, 1/31/16, McClatchy 12/7/07]

Mic: Yates “Has A Long History As A Respected Career Prosecutor.” Mic noted in a May 8 article that “Yates has a long history as a respected career prosecutor who has been praised by Republican lawmakers,” including Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who in a 2015 statement called her “a great hero of the state of Georgia” for her work as a prosecutor. Mic also pointed out that Yates “helped put former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, a Democrat, behind bars for tax evasion.” [Mic, 5/8/17]

Wash. Post: There Is “No Independent Evidence … To Support Trump’s Claims Of Links Between Yates And Classified Leaks.” The Washington Post noted that Trump in his tweet “offered no further details to back up his claims,” and that there has been “no independent evidence produced to support Trump’s claims of links between Yates and classified leaks.” [The Washington Post, 5/8/17]

Yet Right-Wing Outlets Gave Credibility To The Trump Smears

Gateway Pundit: Yates Is A “Hillary [Clinton] Loyalist,” And Trump “Alleged Yates Was The Leaker Of Classified Information To The Liberal Media!” The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft claimed that Yates was a “Hillary loyalist” who “was referred to in an email released by WikiLeaks before the election as one of four known loyalists of candidate Hillary Clinton.” Hoft, in another article, added that “President Trump alleged Yates was the leaker of classified information to the liberal media!” From the May 8 article:

You just can’t make this stuff up!…

Fox News is reporting that Hillary loyalist, Obama appointee and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is invited by the Senate to testify against President Donald Trump in regards to Russia tampering with the 2016 US Election.

[...]

What Fox News did not report is that Yates was referred to in an email released by WikiLeaks before the election as one of four known loyalists of candidate Hillary Clinton.

[...]

Now this Obama appointee and Clinton loyalist is being given a chance to speak in front of a Senate Committee.

It’s just unbelievable that this is happening. [The Gateway Pundit, 5/8/17, 5/8/17]

Weasel Zippers: A Former Inspector General Calling Yates Out Is Proof She Is “A Democratic Operative.” The right-wing website Weasel Zippers cited Krongard’s comments and Yates’ “reaction to the Trump executive order“ on Trump’s Muslim ban to claim that she is “a Democrat operative.” [Weasel Zippers, 5/8/17]

Breitbart: Trump “Suggested” That Yates Be Asked “How Classified Information She Went To The White House Counsel With Got Leaked To The Media Soon After.” Breitbart’s Kristina Wong wrote that Trump “suggested to Senators on Monday morning that” they ask Yates “how classified information she went to the White House counsel with got leaked to the media soon after.” The article did not note that neither Trump nor anyone else has provided evidence for this claim. From the May 8 article:

President Trump suggested to Senators on Monday morning that they ask Sally Yates, former Obama administration deputy attorney general and acting attorney general in the Trump administration’s early days, how classified information she went to the White House counsel with got leaked to the media soon after.

[...]

That classified information was shortly after illegally leaked to the Washington Post, on February 9, leading to Flynn’s resignation, since he had previously told Vice President Mike Pence that he had not discussed that topic. [Breitbart, 5/8/17]

Daily Caller Tweeted Link To Article Claiming Yates Did Something She Is “'Going To Regret.'” The Daily Caller on May 8 tweeted, “FLASHBACK: DC Lawyer Claims FBI Agents Are Working To Expose Former DoJ Officials Such As Loretta Lynch, Sally Yates.” The tweet linked to a November article quoting attorney Joe DiGenova claiming Yates had “‘done something that’” she is “going to regret.” [Twitter, 5/8/17; The Daily Caller, 11/3/16]

Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol: Trump’s Suggestion “Seems Like A Reasonable Question.”

[Twitter, 5/8/17]

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Echoes Gateway Pundit’s Smear Of Yates

Sean Spicer: Yates Was “A Strong Supporter Of Clinton.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a May 9 press briefing called Yates a “political opponent” and a “strong supporter of Clinton.” The remarks are similar to Gateway Pundit’s claim that Yates was a “Hillary loyalist,” which was based on a hacked email from WikiLeaks that appears to use the same language as a Washington Free Beacon article based on the New York Post report mentioning Krongard. A Boston Globe reporter on Twitter, in response to Spicer, noted that the Federal Election Commission “shows no donations from Sally Yates to anyone,” “including Hillary Clinton,” and asked, “What is evidence, as Spicer claims, of her supporting Clinton?” [White House press briefing, 5/9/17; Washington Free Beacon, 5/10/16; Twitter, 5/9/17]

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