White House says it wants Yates to testify

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday lashed out at a Washington Post report that said President Trump's administration blocked former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying before a panel investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

“I hope she testifies,” Spicer said. “I look forward to it. … If they choose to move forward, great. We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple. The report in The Washington Post is 100 percent false.”

Yates briefly helmed the Department of Justice (DOJ) at a time when current Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE was going through the confirmation process. Trump fired Yates, a President Obama appointee, after she said she would refuse to defend the administration’s executive order that temporarily bans refugees and immigrants coming from some Muslim-majority countries.

ADVERTISEMENT
After she was fired, it was revealed that Yates had notified the White House that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had not properly explained his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn has since resigned for misleading Vice President Pence about the nature of his conversations Kislyak.

Yates was scheduled to testify this week before the House Intelligence Committee, but Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) canceled the hearing.

The Washington Post on Tuesday published documents that it said showed the DOJ informed Yates that if she testified, she would be limited in what she could say because of executive privilege. Executive privilege protects the executive branch from having to turn over documents and information in some instances.

The letters published Tuesday appeared to show a DOJ official telling Yates's lawyer that she would need “consent” from the White House to discuss certain conversations she had with administration officials.

But Spicer said Monday the White House counsel's office never considered invoking executive privilege on Yates's testimony.

Spicer said Yates’s attorney sent a letter to the DOJ asking that she be allowed to testify without constraint. Yates’s team put a deadline on the request, saying if they didn’t hear back they would “conclude that the White House does not exert executive privilege over these matters,” Spicer added.

The spokesman insists that the White House never responded and therefore took no action that would have prevented Yates from testifying.

“The letters [The Washington Post] published on their website all back up everything I just said,” Spicer said. “All the letters are available on their website. I hate to give them the traffic, but the reality is that they specifically say if you do not respond, we are going to go ahead. We did not respond. We encouraged them to go ahead. But you suggest in any way, shape or form that we stood in the way of that is 100 percent false.”