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Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates blamed the FBI for providing her with false information which she used to sign off on a surveillance warrant against a former member of the 2016 Trump campaign.
Yates, who was fired by President Donald Trump just days after he took office for refusing to defend a travel ban from terrorist-sponsoring countries, told Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday she didn’t know information contained in the infamous “Steele dossier” was inaccurate before she signed off on a pair of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants so FBI agents could spy on Carter Page.
What’s more, Yates told Kennedy she didn’t personally “vet the accuracy” of the Steele dossier and instead relied on FBI agents and lawyers who prepared the applications, despite the fact that they were linked first to a major party presidential nominee and, eventually, the president himself.
“Did Donald Trump violate the law by colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election?” Kennedy asked in his lead question.
Yates responded by relying on the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which found no evidence of any cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Do you agree with that?” Kennedy responded.
“I’m in no position to be…I wasn’t part of that investigation,” Yates said, adding that she had read Mueller’s post-investigation report.
“You just can’t bring yourself to say that he didn’t violate the law?” he asked.
“Senator, you’re putting words in my mouth,” said Yates, who went on to say that she doesn’t “respect the manner in which [Trump] has carried out the presidency.”
At that, Kennedy asked if there were a group of people at the FBI “who despised” Trump and worked to keep him out of the White House, as emails between fired FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and his one-time paramour, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, appear to indicate.
“I’m not aware of anyone at the Department of Justice doing anything to try to keep Donald Trump from becoming president,” she said. “That would not only surprise me but shock me.”
Yates went on to deny that the Steele dossier was an important component of the ‘Russian collusion’ probe, saying that it was more germane to securing FISA warrants against Page, as per the Mueller report.
The former Justice Department official also refused to condemn the dossier as “junk,” per Kennedy’s description, nor would she say whether or not she believed the allegations contained in it.
“I think there is certainly evidence now that there was not at the time that calls into question the reliability of many portions of the Steele dossier,” Yates said.
At that point, Kennedy asked Yates whether she verified the dossier before she signed off on the FISA warrants.
“We rely upon the FBI to be the fact-finders” in regards to information contained in such warrants.
In response to a direct question from Kennedy about whether she herself attempted to verify the information, Yates made it clear: “No, I did not independently fact check, and I’m not exactly sure how I would go about doing that.”
Later, Kennedy blasted Yates for failing to look into the details of the accusations against a then-sitting president before asking her what anyone did to verify the veracity of the dossier.
“You said that the Steele dossier, with hindsight, that it may not have been completely accurate. You’re investigating a president of the United States,” Kennedy continued. “And you didn’t check to see if it was accurate?”
The Louisiana Republican then used a hypothetical — Graham being accused by someone as being involved in a Chinese plot to disrupt the 2020 election and then publicly called out for it before the accusation can be confirmed — to further question Yates’ failure to verify the veracity of the dossier.
“Am I not like a rock only dumber?” Kennedy said.
“A problem that I think that the Page FISA process has revealed is that just because there is … a document in the FBI files that establishes that fact, there were also inconsistent facts that apparently were not included in that affidavit,” Yates went on to explain.
“Lawyers in the National Security Division spent a lot of time working with the FBI in putting together the affidavit and the application here,” she continued. “But they necessarily must rely on the FBI who are the fact-finders in this to be certain of the accuracy.”
A subsequent DoJ inspector general investigation into the FBI’s ‘Spygate’ FISA applications found 17 substantial ‘mistakes’ by agents filing them.
However, a just-completed analysis by the same inspector general’s office found just two small errors in 29 FISA court applications, suggesting that the applications for Page may have been politically motivated.
SEE HIGHLIGHTS OF SALLY YATES’ HEARING
- Sally Yates admits Comey went ‘rogue’; Graham’s opening shots at Senate hearing make her squirm
- Dem Senator, with no evidence, accuses Sen Graham of mistreating Sally Yates because she’s a woman
- Fiery Hawley comes hard at Yates: ‘If this doesn’t call for a cleaning house in DOJ, FBI, I don’t know what does’
- Sen. Kennedy asks Yates, if he does what she did, ‘am I like a rock, only dumber?’
- Sally Yates tries to deny Trump campaign was surveilled, Sen. Cruz helps clear it up for her
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