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It’s possible that Obama-era Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates is on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s shortlist for the Justice Department’s top job, according to a former DoJ official.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Ian Prior, who served as a spokesman for the Justice Department during the Trump administration, said it’s likely Biden is considering Yates for attorney general based on her performance during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
During her testimony, Yates was asked about the Obama administration’s consideration of charging incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn under provisions of the rarely-invoked 1799 Logan Act, a law that criminalizes negotiations by unauthorized citizens with foreign governments having disputes with the U.S., which has never successfully been used to prosecute anyone.
In response to a question about it from the panel’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Yates indicated that then-FBI Director James Comey, not Biden, brought it up.
“Did he mention the Logan Act?” Graham asked, referring to the then-vice president.
“I do not remember the vice president saying much of anything,” Yates responded, adding: “I have a vague memory of Director [James] Comey mentioning the Logan Act.”
But notes taken by then-FBI counterterrorism official Peter Strzok documenting the Jan. 5, 2017 Oval Office meeting between President Obama, Yates, Comey, Biden, and then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice indicate that Biden was the one who mentioned invoking the Logan Act.
In any event, Prior said FBI agents used the act as their basis to go at Flynn and “set him up to lie.”
“[Sally Yates] can spin it as a counterintelligence investigation all she wants, but the bottom line is they were using a law that nobody cares about, including every administration that comes in, they were using that to investigate Flynn and try to get him to lie,” Prior said, noting that the law hasn’t been invoked since 1852 and no one has ever been convicted under it.
And yet, it was the basis the Obama administration used to target the 2016 Trump campaign and Trump’s new administration, the former DoJ spokesman added.
Also, Yates testified that the FBI’s interview of Flynn was done without her authorization and that she grew upset after finding out about it.
“I did not authorize it because I was not told about it in advance, but that is not the same thing as a saying there was not a legitimate basis for it,” the former deputy AG told Graham.
“You did not authorize the interview. You wanted to go to the White House and tell them about the problem, didn’t you?” Graham pressed.
“That’s right,” she said. “I thought that was the more immediate issue.”
She then blamed Comey for acting “unilaterally” and agreed with Graham’s characterization that the former FBI director had gone “rogue.”
Yates also said she first learned about the Flynn investigation during that January 2017 Oval Office meeting, which was based on talks the retired Army three-star general had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Prior says, though, that it was Strzok who wanted to invoke the Logan Act.
“[Sally Yates] conveniently doesn’t remember that. She doesn’t remember any of that but she does remember that no attempt was made by Biden or Obama to influence the investigation. Well, Peter Strzok and his notes say very differently,” he said.
🚨Peter Strzok notes from 1/4/17 released in Flynn case:
Discussion among Obama, Comey, Yates, Biden, and Susan Rice.
Biden: "Logan Act"
Obama: "Have the right people on" Flynn case.
Comey: The Flynn/Kislyak calls "appear legit." pic.twitter.com/20a3z46Z9Z
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) June 24, 2020
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Sally Yates is on the very short list of the attorney general in the Biden administration. She’s not going to go out there and do anything that is going to jeopardize his chances,” he added.
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