According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.
Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
Who worked on Trump’s transition team. That Devin Nunes.
Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates’s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled.
Sleazy enough yet?
In a March 23 letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel Ramer, Yates’s attorney David O’Neil described the government’s position. O’Neil, who declined to comment, noted in the letter that Yates is willing to testify, and that she will avoid discussing classified information and details that could compromise investigations. The correspondence was later shared with the Intelligence Committee.
“The Department of Justice has advised that it believes there are further constraints on the testimony Ms. Yates may provide at the [Intelligence Committee] hearing. Generally, we understand that the department takes the position that all information Ms. Yates received or actions she took in her capacity as Deputy Attorney General and acting Attorney General are client confidences that she may not disclose absent written consent of the department,’’ the lawyer wrote.
Client confidences. So they’re arguing that the Deputy Attorney General was Trump’s personal lawyer and Trump and his administration were her clients? Is that normal? Is that an accepted principle, that US AGs are presidents’ lawyers and presidents are the clients of AGs? It sounds bizarre as hell to me.
“We believe that the department’s position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the department’s historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former officials,’’ the letter continues. “In particular, we believe that Ms. Yates should not be obligated to refuse to provide non-classified facts about the department’s notification to the White House of concerns about the conduct of a senior official. Requiring Ms. Yates to refuse to provide such information is particularly untenable given that multiple senior administration officials have publicly described the same events.’’
So is the Secretary of Defense Trump’s personal bodyguard?