Yates' meaning seems to come clear: What the heck did Sally Yates mean when she spoke to that Senate subcommittee?
Back on May 8, she told the committee that her DOJ team believed Michael Flynn might be subject to blackmail due to the administration's false statements about his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak.
In those false statements, various people denied that Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about the Obama Administration's sanctions on the Russkies.
When she appeared before the committee, Yates also said the Justice Department had been concerned about Flynn's "underlying conduct." This raised a bit of an interpretive problem:
To what "underlying conduct" did Yates mean to refer?
As we noted on Tuesday, David Ignatius thought she was referring to Flynn's conversations with Kislyak about sanctions—conversations which supposedly could be a violation of the Logan Act. Other more excitable figures thought she meant something more thrilling.
Last Tuesday evening, May 9, a certain major cable star gave us liberals a thrill. She suggested that Yates must be referring to some other type of misconduct by Flynn—that Yates must have been concerned about some other "underlying conduct," of which we were still unaware.
We almost always get some thrills when we watch that cable star's show. Tuesday, on Anderson Cooper's show, Yates seemed to settle the question what she actually meant.
Cooper never directly asked Yates what she meant in her remarks about Flynn's "underlying conduct." But in these passages, it's fairly clear—the "underlying conduct" to which Yates referred was simply Flynn's discussions of sanctions, not some other offense:
COOPER (5/16/17): When were you first made aware that General Flynn was lying about his interactions with the Russian ambassador?On several occasions, Yates referred to the many "public misrepresentations" about Flynn's "underlying conduct." That seems to mean that the "underlying conduct" to which she referred was Flynn's discussion of sanctions.
YATES: Well, first, let me say—and I know that this may seem kind of artificial to folks. I can't really talk about what General Flynn's underlying conduct was, because that's based on classified information.
COOPER: Can you say when you were made aware about an issue with his underlying conduct?
YATES: It was in the early part of January where we first got some indication about what he had been involved in. And then, sort of the middle part of January, when there were false statements that started coming out of the White House based on misrepresentations he had made to people there.
YATES: We were really concerned about the underlying conduct in and of itself, even before there were misrepresentations about it. Then there were misrepresentations coming out of the White House again where they were saying it was based specifically on what General Flynn had told them.
And they were getting more and more specific. And it became clear they weren't going to stop.
YATES: It was the misrepresentations, that didn't really start until mid-January, that aggravated the situation.
COOPER: Because misrepresentations to the vice president and others in the White House, that you believed took it to another level?
YATES: It did. It certainly aggravated the situation in terms of the ability for that information to be used for compromise with the Russians.
COOPER: Explain the idea of compromise, how that works.
YATES: Sure. Now this has been a tried and true tradecraft of the Russians for decades now. And the gist of it is pretty simple. It's that if they have information that they can use to—as leverage over someone, then they will use that.
They even have a word for it, "kompromat." And in this situation, we had both the underlying conduct that was problematic for General Flynn. But then, the public misrepresentations about it, that were based on lies that General Flynn had told the vice president and others.
For ourselves, we thought a great deal of Yates' analysis seemed a bit overwrought. On its face, we don't see what would be so awful about an incoming administration speaking to a foreign government about possible policy changes, perhaps involving sanctions.
The notion that Flynn could have been subject to blackmail seems a bit overheated as well. Beyond that, we don't know why Yates, like everyone else, assumes Pence didn't know the truth about Flynn's discussion of sanctions.
Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. No one has shown how we know. Instead, a group novel has formed.
With that in mind, we'll offer this tiny warning:
By now, the chase is very much on against President Donald J. Trump.
As usual, we liberals have proven unable to win political fights on the merits. Instead, we hope and pray that we can catch our victorious opponents in some illegal or immoral behavior, giving us our only chance to emerge with a win.
At any rate, the chase is currently very much on, and you're going to see a million thumbs on a million scales. Cable news discussions last night were pretty much thumbs on the scales all the way down.
Last Tuesday night, May 9, a certain major cable news star gave us our nightly fix. Excitingly, she said Yates must be referring to some additional misbehavior by Flynn.
She never mentioned an obvious possibility—the possibility that Yates had simply been referring to Flynn's discussion of sanctions. The following night, she gave us a thrill about Andrew McCabe. This is the way this self-adoring corporate-paid child plays the cable news game.
We liberals get dumber and weaker this way. When will we rise up on our hind legs and make these childish games stop?
In fairness: In fairness, excitement is good for cable ratings and profits.
We'll guess the unnamed cable star is being paid $10 million per year. It takes a lot of excitement and fun to underwrite wages like that.