While testifying on Monday about Russia and
Michael Flynn, Sally Yates' opening statement during her testimony went straight to the point. According to a CNN transcript, the former attorney general noted that while her testimony would be limited by the classified nature of information, she remained committed to highlighting the perils that foreign interference posed for the future of American democracy.
According to NBC News, Yates claimed that she had delivered information about Flynn and Russia to White House counsel Don McGahn as early as February. In her opening statement, Yates reminded the senators that she cannot address certain classified information "in this public setting, either directly or indirectly." She added, "My duty to protect classified information applies just as much to me as a former official as it did when I left the department."
Yates' testimony before the Senate subcommittee was a long-awaited continuation of the investigation into Donald Trump's ties to Russia. On Monday morning, Trump
tweeted about Yates in what possibly amounted to a threat. "Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to [White House] Counsel," the president posted on Twitter.
In addition to becoming media's focal point due to the controversy with
the former national security advisor, Yates became a household name after she opposed Trump's travel ban as acting attorney general. And prior to the testimony on Monday, Yates was backed by thousands on Twitter who gathered under the hashtag #SallyYatesIsAPatriot to highlight her contribution in standing up for accountability and fairness.
Yates' opening statement touched upon Russia, foreign interference, and its dangers for democracy. Her full opening statement read:
Chairman Graham, ranking member White House, and distinguished members of the subcommittee, I am pleased to appear before you this afternoon on this critically important topic of Russian interference in last year's presidential election and related matters the subcommittee is investigating. For 27 years, I was honored to represent the people of the United States with the Justice Department. I began as an assistant United States attorney in Atlanta in the fall of 1989. Like all line prosecutors I investigated and tried cases, working to ensure that our communities were safe and that those who violated the law were held accountable. Overtime, through five Democratic and Republican administrations, I assumed greater leadership positions within the Department of Justice. In the United States Attorney's Office in Atlanta, I served as Chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption section, First Assistant U.S. attorney and U.S. attorney. I then had the privilege of serving as a Deputy Attorney General, overseeing the daily operations of the Justice Department for over two years, and finally as acting Attorney General after being asked to stay on by the current administration. Throughout my time at the department, I was incredibly fortunate to work alongside the career men and women who followed the facts and applied the law with tremendous care and dedication, and who were in fact the backbone of the Department of Justice. And at every step, in every position from the AUSA to Acting Attorney General, I have always tried to carry out my responsibility to seek justice in a manner that would engender the trust of the people whom I served. I want to thank this subcommittee for conducting an impartial and thorough investigation of this vitally important topic. The efforts by a foreign adversary to interfere with and undermine our democratic processes — and those of our allies — pose a serious threat to all Americans. This hearing and others the subcommittee has and will convene are an important bipartisan step in understanding the threat and the best ways to confront it going forward. As the intelligence committee assessed in its January 2017 report, Russia "will continue to develop capabilities [...] to use against the United States," and we need to be ready to meet those threats. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to take part in today's discussion. I also want to note that I intend my answers today to be as fulsome and comprehensive as possible while respecting my legal and ethical boundaries. As the subcommittee understands, many of the topics of interest today concern classified information that I cannot address in this public setting, either directly or indirectly. My duty to protect classified information applies just as much to me as a former official as it did when I left the department. In addition, I am no longer at the Department of Justice, and I am not authorized generally to discuss deliberations within DOJ or more broadly in the executive branch, particularly on matters that may be the subject of ongoing investigations. I take those obligations very seriously, and I appreciate the subcommittee's shared interest in protecting classified information and preserving the integrity of any investigations the Department of Justice may now be pursuing. I look forward to answering your questions. Thank you.
Due to professional and legal obligations to treat classified information with utmost sensitivity, Yates declined to answer certain questions.