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Who is Sally Yates and why is she testifying before Congress?

Published: Sunday, May 07, 2017 @ 9:46 PM

Who is Sally Yates

On Monday, former assistant U.S. attorney general Sally Yates is scheduled to testify before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee and recount what she told the Trump administration about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russian officials.

Yates, according to a source who has been briefed on what she is expected to testify about, will tell the committee that she told White House counsel on Jan. 26 about discrepancies in Flynn’s statements and what the White House was saying about his activities concerning Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

Critics say Flynn promised the Russian ambassador that the Trump administration would work to ease sanctions levied by President Barack Obama over allegations that the Russians had interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Flynn has denied the charge.

Obama imposed sanctions on nine Russians after they were linked to "significant malicious cyber-enabled activities.” The administration also ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country.

So what do we know about Yates and how she has come to testify before the Senate subcommittee? 

  • She was born in Atlanta, Ga., in 1960.
  • She graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and earned a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law.
  • She went to work for the King & Spalding law firm after graduation and worked for the firm for three years. She became an assistant U.S. attorney, after joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta in 1989.
  • Yates was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Eric Rudolph, the man who was convicted of the bombing at the Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Olympic Games.
  • In 2010 she was appointed by President Barack Obama as the first U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. She was the first woman to be appointed to that position.
  • In 2015, Yates was nominated and later confirmed as deputy attorney general of the United States.
  • Yates, 56, is married and has two children. Comer Yates, her husband, who is also an attorney, is the executive director of Atlanta Speech School, a school for children with hearing and learning disabilities.

How did Yates come to testify before a Senate panel?

On Jan. 20, Attorney General Loretta Lynch resigned from her position and Yates became acting attorney general. Jeff Sessions, at the time President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, had not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

Yates stayed in the position for 10 days until she was fired by the Trump administration after she ordered the Department of Justice not to defend the president’s executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

"At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” 

Sally Yates wrote in instructing the DOJ not to defend the order after it was challenged in court in Washington state, "Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so."

The White House said in a statement that Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the statement read.

Michael Flynn warning

Yates is set to testify Monday about a warning she gave the White House counsel about what Gen. Flynn said he was doing when he met with the Russian ambassador, and what Justice Department officials believe actually happened between the two.

Yates met with White House Counsel Don McGahn 18 days before Flynn was fired. She is expected to testify that she issued a forceful warning that the story Flynn was telling was not what had happened between the two when they met in late December. She is expected also to say that she recommended that Flynn be fired.

At that point, Flynn had denied talking to Kislyak about the sanctions President Obama had placed on the Russians.

The hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

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Did you know Barbara Bush’s grandfather was a founder of the Dayton Rotary Club?

Published: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 10:02 AM

Former first lady Barbara Bush died on Tuesday, according to a statement from the office of George H.W. Bush.

Former first lady Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday night, had strong family ties to Dayton and southwest Ohio.

Her grandfather Scott Pierce was one of the founders of the Dayton Rotary Club. Her parents, Marvin Pierce and Pauline Robinson, met at Miami University in Oxford.

When the family lived in New York years later, Marvin would bring Barbara on trips to Dayton when he worked for McCall Corporation. He went on to be the president of McCall’s, the publisher of Redbook and McCall’s.

RELATED: Former first lady, presidential mom dies | Photos: Barbara Bush through the yearsGeorge and Barbara Bush had ‘storybook’ 73-year marriage

“When I was four or five years old, my father would take me with him on business trips to Dayton, the site of a McCall plant,” Bush wrote in her memoir.

Marvin was a 1916 graduate of Miami University. He was a standout athlete nicknamed Monk. He played basketball, football, baseball and tennis. He was inducted into the Miami Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972.

In her memoir, Bush wrote about her father saying, “Daddy was really bright and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, while at the same time waiting tables and tending furnaces.”

“Miami is where Daddy fell in love with Mother who was studying to be a teacher.”

Pauline and Marvin were married in 1918 in Union County, Ohio.

George and Barbara Bush wave at their supporters in West Carrollton in August 1988.

Pauline was born in Richwood, Ohio, on April 28, 1896. Her father was Ohio Supreme Court Justice James Edgar Robinson.

Pauline died in a car accident in 1949 in Rye, N.Y. When Marvin who was driving the car lost control. She was 53 years old.

Barbara’s brother, Scott Pierce, also attended Miami University. He is 88 years old.

RELATED: What to know about the former first lady

Bush’s grandparents

Barbara Bush’s grandfather, Scott Pierce, was an insurance salesman for a while in Dayton.

In her memoir, Bush said her grandfather and grandmother “lost all their money in the 1890s, and my grandfather never recovered. He sold insurance in Dayton, Ohio, but the family lived humbly.”

Pierce was among a group of 16 men who formed the Dayton Rotary Club in 1913 and he became the its first president, according to David Williamson, the club’s historian.

Barbara Bush visits Middletown just before the 1988 election.

The story goes that during the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, Scott Pierce’s teenage daughter Charlotte — Bush’s aunt — became separated from her family and had to ride out the flood waters in the attic of another Rotary member. It was several days before her family got word that she was safe.

Rotary International members then came to Dayton’s rescue, making the flood recovery the organization's first ever national relief effort.

“(Scott Pierce) was a big deal in Dayton Rotary,” Williamson said. Words he wrote are presented to each outgoing club president on a plaque to this day.

Bush’s grandmother Mabel Pierce was born in Hamilton County in 1869 and died in Dayton in 1955. Scott Pierce died in Dayton in 1945.

Barbara Bush’s great grandparents, Mabel’s parents, Jerome Pierce and Martha Stokes, are buried in Glen Haven Cemetery in Harrison, about 20 miles northwest of Cincinnati.

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Democratic Party sues Trump Campaign, Wikileaks, others, over 2016 elections

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 11:56 AM

The legal fight over the 2016 elections expanded further on Friday, as the Democratic National Committee filed a wide-ranging lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s campaign, top aides, one of Mr. Trump’s son, as well as his son-in-law, the Russian government, and others caught up in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 race for the White House.

The 66 page lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, where an FBI raid recently took place on the President’s personal lawyer, alleges a broad conspiracy involving Russia, its intelligence service, and members of the Trump inner circle, like former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

“No one is above the law,” the lawsuit begins. “In the Trump Campaign, Russia found a willing and active partner in this effort.”

The charges cover everything from racketeering, conspiracy, computer fraud, trespass, and more, claiming the hacking effort was a coordinated effort with the Trump Campaign, designed to damage the bid of Hillary Clinton for the White House.

Along with the Russian government and intelligence service known as the GRU, the Democratic lawsuit names Julian Assange and Wikileaks, the Trump Campaign, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, and two campaign aides who have already agreed to help the Russia investigation, George Papadopoulos and Richard Gates.




The document did not seem to make public any brand new details about how the hacking occurred at the DNC or with members of the Clinton campaign.

In the lawsuit, Democrats charge “Russia’s cyberattack on the DNC began only weeks after Trump announced his candidacy for President,” in June 2015.

“In April 2016, another set of Russian intelligence agents successfully hacked into the DNC, saying that “massive amounts of data” were taken from DNC servers.

The lawsuit makes no mention of the FBI warning to the DNC that it was being hacked, and how that was ignored for weeks by officials at DNC headquarters in Washington.

If the lawsuit actually goes forward, it would not only involve evidence being gathered from those being challenged by the Democrats – but some made clear it could open the DNC hacking response to a further review as well in terms of discovery.


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Trump denounces Comey, Russia probe, after release of Comey memos

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 7:31 AM

The morning after memos written by former FBI Director James Comey were delivered to Congress – and then immediately leaked to the news media – President Donald Trump blasted both Comey and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, denying that he had done anything wrong, and defending a top aide who had been caught up in the probe.

“So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book,” the President thundered on Twitter from his Florida retreat in Mar-a-Lago, delivering a new nickname to the former FBI chief, and defending his former National Security Adviser, who has already plead guilty to lying to investigators about his post-election contacts with the Russian Ambassador.

Early Friday morning, Mr. Trump again denied that he, his aides, or his campaign played any role in coordinating activities with Russia during the 2016 campaign, though the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller , as Republicans in Congress joined in arguing that the Comey memos only helped the President’s cause.

Here is some of what the President found in the memos – as well as the reaction of GOP supporters in the Congress:

1. Trump again makes clear he did nothing wrong. The sun wasn’t even up yet at Mar-a-Lago, and President Trump was out with a familiar refrain on Twitter, saying there was “NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.” Various press reports this week had said that aides had scheduled the President to be at his Florida retreat all week, ostensibly to be away from some of the furor over the new book by the former FBI Director. Mr. Trump has called Comey a ‘slimeball’ and more – and one might think there will be more Twitter daggers aimed at Comey after today.

2. Trump defends ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. One subject which gets a lot of attention in the Comey memos is how the President – and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – paid special attention to the investigation into Flynn, who had been a close campaign aide and adviser to Mr. Trump. Priebus specifically asked Comey in a meeting if there was a FISA warrant on Flynn – Comey did not answer. And Comey also detailed how he felt the President had asked him to go easy on Flynn, who has already plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States.

3. Republicans say memos prove Trump’s innocence. As the full Comey memos leaked to the press, GOP lawmakers were quickly ready with their own read on what the memos proved, and what they did not. “Former Director Comey’s memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated,” said Reps. Goodlatte, Gowdy and Nunes, three key GOP lawmakers in the House. “The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened,” as they wrote that the memos would actually help the President in any criminal proceeding.

4. GOP calls for Comey to be prosecuted over memo leaks. Some of the information in the memos is redacted and noted as classified, which was seized upon immediately by GOP lawmakers, who argue that Comey should be charged with a crime. It immediately brought back comparisons to Hillary Clinton, and how details in her emails were seen as classified after the fact. “Intentionally leaking classified information is a big no no,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Here is an example of one Comey memo that was considered classified – from his dinner meeting with the President in January 2017. But when you go through the details, what was redacted had to do with a subject that was not leaked, that being the President’s anger with Flynn over a call by a foreign leader soon after the inaugural. It has been reported that the phone call was from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

5. Conservative media quickly echoes GOP, Trump. The release of Comey’s book, and his subsequent book tour, have been a unique thing to watch from the sidelines, as supporters of the President have spent the week taking shots at the former FBI Director, trying to poke holes in his story, accusing him of double standards, and questioning whether he was trying to set up the President. Look for that to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

6. In Congress, GOP lawmakers brush off Comey details. Echoing the President, Republicans delved into the details of what Comey wrote and found little to worry about, and more to bolster their argument that the President did no wrong. “If anything, this impugns the judgment of Director Comey,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who had joined in demanding the release of the memos by the Justice Department. “There’s nothing in here even approaching ‘obstruction of justice,'” Meadows wrote on Twitter.

7. GOP zeroes in on Comey line that he doesn’t leak. As both parties cherry-picked items from the Comey memos to buttress their arguments for and against the Russia investigation, there was a juicy one for Republicans, when Comey said he told the President that he was not a leaker. “I said I don’t do sneaky things,” Comey wrote about their late January 2017 dinner. “I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” Obviously, after Comey was fired in May, he did leak portions of these memos, through a friend of his, who gave them to the New York Times. This tweet is from a Republican who is on the House Intelligence Committee.

8. Leaks, leaks and more leaks. Republicans also raised questions about the initial briefing of the President at Trump Tower by Comey and other top intelligence officials. At that time, Comey first warned the President about the existence of the Steele Dossier, and also said the FBI was keeping a very tight lid on the details, because CNN and other news organizations were waiting to run stories about it. “I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook,” Comey recounts himself telling the President-Elect. But the details did soon leak when the dossier was published by BuzzFeed news ( though the President’s private lawyer, Michael Cohen, has now dropped a $100 million defamation lawsuit related to that publication).

9. Reportedly, Mueller did not object to release of memos. While the Justice Department had resisted Republican demands for the release of the Comey memos, immediate news reports on Thursday night indicated that the Special Counsel’s office did not see a reason to prevent the material from going public. As with most things in Washington, the memos seemed to leak instantly. But it also prompted speculation that the GOP may have hoped that the feds would resist, and not release the memos, sparking a fight with Republicans in Congress.

10. Release of Comey memos also generate other headlines. While the President and GOP lawmakers focused on items in the Comey memos which they say showed Mr. Trump committed no obstruction of justice, the memos also did something Republicans probably didn’t want – and that was to focus attention on some of the more salacious items in the Steele Dossier. Comey’s memos have repeated references to the President denying involvement with hookers, and even a quote from Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the quality of Russia prostitutes.

 

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Instant leaks as feds deliver Comey memos to Congress

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 10:36 PM

Bowing to demands from Republicans in the House, the Justice Department on Thursday night gave lawmakers memos written by former FBI Director James Comey after meetings and phone calls with President Donald Trump, with the resulting leaks only amplifying Comey’s story that Mr. Trump had pressed him repeatedly about the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

And in classic Washington fashion – the memos were leaked almost immediately to news organizations.

You can read the set of memos from Comey – written soon after meetings directly with the President, or after phone calls with Mr. Trump.

There had been concerns that sharing the memos with Congress might cause problems for the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – but press reports on Thursday night indicated otherwise, and a reading of the materials did not reveal a new treasure trove of information.

And more than anything, they only seemed to bring the focus more on President Trump.

Here are ten things we learned from the memos written by the former FBI Director.

1. Trump praises Comey at first meeting at Trump Tower. Before the former FBI Director could get to the subject of the Steele Dossier, the two men had some chit chat one-on-one. Comey said the President-Elect complimented the FBI chief on how he had handled the difficult situation involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation. “He said I was repeatedly put in impossible positions,” Comey recounted, quoting Trump as saying, “they hated you for what you did later, but what choice did you have?” Comey said the President-Elect said ‘he hoped I planned to stay on.’

2. Comey moves into the Steele Dossier. With other top officials out of the room at Trump Tower, Comey then described briefing the President-Elect on the contents of the Steele Dossier, expressing concerns that it could soon leak in the media. “I said, the Russians allegedly had tapes of him and prostitutes,” Comey wrote, saying that Mr. Trump said, “there were no prostitutes.” Comey said he told the President-Elect that the FBI was not investigating these stories, but that “our job was to protect the President from efforts to coerce him.”

3. The late January “loyalty” dinner. After President Trump had been sworn into office, he invited Comey to the White House for dinner – just the two of them – telling Comey that even Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did not know of their sit down. Comey said he told Trump, “I was not on anybody’s side politically.” After a detailed discussion of the impact of the Clinton email investigation on the campaign – in which they disagreed on whether there was a case against Hillary Clinton, Comey said the President made a clear point. “He replied that he needed loyalty and expected loyalty.”

4. Comey relates Trump displeasure with Flynn. One interesting side story from the late January dinner was when Comey related how the President had been angry with his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for evidently not informing the President that another world leader had called after the inauguration. “In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.”” Comey then notes that he never gave Mr. Trump any indication of the FBI interest in Flynn – or the fact that agents had interviewed Flynn just a day before about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States.

5. A meeting with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. One memo from Comey detailed a meeting with the President’s Chief of Staff, who asked the FBI Director if there was an investigation going on into the President’s National Security Adviser. “Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Comey quoted Priebus as asking. Later, their conversation went over the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and Comey’s late announcement which roiled the campaign. “At some point I added that it also wasn’t my fault that Huma Abedin forwarded emails to Anthony Weiner.”

6. Golden showers, hookers, and Putin. After meeting with Priebus, Comey was taken by the Oval Office for a quick visit with the President. There, Mr. Trump complained about leaks of his phone calls with foreign leaders, and again vented his frustration about details from the Steele Dossier. “The President brought up the “Golden Showers thing” and said it really bothered him,” Comey recounted. “The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense but that Putin had told ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.'”

7. Trump presses Comey on Michael Flynn. In portions of the memos which had already been leaked, Comey describes how a broader meeting on homeland security ended, and then others left him one-on-one with Mr. Trump. “He began by saying he wanted to ‘talk about Mike Flynn,'” Comey recounts, adding later that the President said he had ‘other concerns’ about Flynn, but was aggravated about the leaks concerning his former National Security Adviser. But the President then returned to Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” was how Comey remembered what the President had said in this February 14, 2017 meeting.

8. Trump urges Comey to ‘lift the cloud.’ Again, these details had been leaked previously, as Comey recounted a phone conversation in which the President complained about the Russia investigation, saying at one point that he would have won a health care vote in the House if not for the controversy over the Trump-Russia probe about the 2016 elections. Comey noted the President again returned to an issue that clearly aggravated him – “can you imagine me, hookers?” Comey’s memo also seems to say that the President was going to file a lawsuit against former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who had assembled the dossier. No such suit was ever filed.

9. More about loyalty to the President. In an April 2017 phone call, Comey says the President pressed him to publicly confirm that he (Mr. Trump) is not under investigation related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. “He spoke for a bit about why it was so important,” Comey recounted, saying the President feared it was overshadowing the work of his new administration. “They keep bringing up the Russia thing as an excuse for losing the election,” Comey wrote. Then Comey said the President pressed him again. “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing you know,” Comey quoted Mr. Trump. In a footnote to his own memo, Comey seems perplexed as to what the President was referring to.

10. The release may on spur more questions. Republicans in the House had been pressing for the release of these memos from Comey for months, convinced that they would show wrongdoing by the former FBI Director. Instead, the full memos added more context to what was going on during the first few months of the Trump Administration with regards to the Russia investigation, and seemed to give more hints about what the FBI knew of the Steele Dossier, and how Trump officials were worried about who was being investigated.

 

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