Attorney General

DOJ cited privilege in seeking to block Russia testimony by former acting attorney general

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Sally Yates

Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates. U.S. Department of Justice photo.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes abruptly canceled a hearing this week on links between Russian officials and the Trump campaign on the same day that a lawyer for the former acting attorney general indicated that she intended to testify.

David A. O’Neil, a Debevoise & Plimpton partner who represents former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, asserted in the letter that privilege claims do not bar Yates from testifying on nonclassified facts, the Washington Post reports.

The Department of Justice had previously told Yates in a letter that much of her possible testimony was likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. O’Neil responded that the privilege had been waived as a result of public comments by senior White House officials.

President Donald Trump had fired Yates in January after she refused to defend his executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Yates had played a key role in the investigation of Michael Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump became president, according to the article. The retired general briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser.

An anonymous source told the Post that Yates had disclosed to government officials that her testimony would probably contradict statements made by White House officials about Flynn’s contact with the ambassador.

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