What Franken and Klobuchar asked during the Sally Yates hearing

Both of Minnesotas senators were part of the big Russia/2016 election/Mike Flynn hearing Monday.
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Russia, the 2016 election and former national security adviser Mike Flynn were the main subjects of a Senate subcommittee hearing held Monday.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates has been out in front in the headlines since then, for her first-hand account about how she told White House lawyer Don McGahn in January that Flynn was at risk of being blackmailed. (Here's the Washington Post's take.)

Flynn, you might remember, was President Donald Trump's national security adviser for a few weeks. He resigned in February after news reports said he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about how much he'd been in contact with a Russian ambassador.

The Justice Department told the White House at the time that Flynn's lie opened him up to being blackmailed. Yates reiterated that belief again Monday.

The New York Times has a rundown of the timeline she offered up during testimony – when she spoke with White House staff about her Flynn concerns, who she spoke with, follow-ups, etc.

Former National Intelligence Director Gen. James Clapper testified as well. He said it was clear Russians were involved in trying to influence the 2016 election, but noted he personally wasn't aware of any evidence of collusion between people on Trump's campaign and Russia, the New York Times says.

We won't get too into that here. But we'll touch on what Minnesota's senators – both of whom are on the Senate Judiciary Committee – had to say during the hearing Monday.

Sen. Al Franken's 'puzzle'

Franken, who lifted his national profile for some stinging questioning during cabinet confirmation hearings, did a lot of theorizing.

"We're trying to put a puzzle together here, everybody," he said.

Speaking to Yates and Clapper, or sometimes just to himself, Franken ran down the list of Trump campaign officials and associates who have had reported contact with Russians – Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Roger Stone.

(Some of those people have denied the allegations or described them as less than made out to be.)

"That's a lot," Franken said, before offering one theory as to why Flynn stayed in his national security adviser post 18 days before being let go, despite warnings from Yates and even former President Barack Obama.

"Is it possible that the reason that [Trump] didn't fire [Flynn] then was that, 'Well, if I fire him for talking to the Russians about sanctions ... what about all the other people on my team?'" Franken wondered aloud.

At the end, he asked Yates if she wanted to comment, to which she replied: "I don't think I'm going to touch that, senator."

Franken's questioning starts at 2:18.07 of the C-SPAN video.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar on blackmail

Klobuchar's most direct question came in the middle of her first round of questions for Yates and Clapper.

"If a high-ranking national security official is caught on tape with a foreign official saying one thing in private, and then caught in public saying another thing to the vice president, is that material for blackmail?" she asked.

Yates gave a straightforward, "Certainly," and Clapper agreed.

Klobuchar was focused in part on the process of Yates telling the White House – when she went, and what her purpose was when going over there.

"We were there to tell the White House about something we were very concerned about," Yates said, adding multiple times afterward they did so hoping higher-ups would take action.

As for Clapper, Klobuchar poked at questions regarding Russia's influence (Clapper said they're probably celebrating it as a success) and how to safeguard America's elections in the future.

You can watch her questioning here via C-SPAN. Klobuchar speaks at 1:38.08, and again at 2:56.09.

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