“That’s a lot”
Al Franken doesn’t mince words. The outspoken senator has become one of the most reliable voices in the young Trump Administration but he took it to another level during the testimony of former Justice Department official Sally Yates.
At the top of the hearing, Franken went through the list of Trump officials who have already been revealed to have formal ties to Russia:
Disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn , former Trump campaign manager Paul Manifort, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former adviser Carter Page and current senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“That’s a lot,” Franken said dryly.
If you’ll remember, Yates was unceremoniously fired by President Trump after she refused to support his attempted ban on travelers from several majority Muslim countries.
During the testimony, Franken asked aloud why Trump didn’t fire former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn once it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his ties to Russia.
It was revealed on Monday that both Yates and President Obama had warned Trump not to hire Flynn, stressing the likelihood that he had been “compromised” by his ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Reading from the department’s own description of the requirements for national security clearance, Franken said:
“Security clearance holders must demonstrate trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion and sound judgment, as well as freedom from allegiances and potential for coercion.”
He then asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he has appeared on Russia Today, the state-run propaganda TV network, like Flynn has.
“No, not willingly,” Clapper said to laughter.
He then asked Yates if she had warned Trump directly about Flynn. “Certainly We went through all of our concerns in the first meeting.”
When Yates refused to speculate as to why Trump didn’t heed the advice both she and Obama had freely offered him, Franken laid out the case in brutal fashion:
“Maybe, just maybe, he didn’t get rid of a guy who lied to the vice president, who got paid by the Russians, who went on Russia Today, because there are other people in his administration who met secretly with the Russians and didn’t reveal it until later, until they were caught.”