Sally Yates speaks out on Michael Flynn's 'criminal' conduct in CNN interview

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said in an interview aired Tuesday that "there is certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by" ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn's "conduct."

Her comments came in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, her first since President Donald Trump fired her in late January.

Yates, who fired after she refused to defend Trump's controversial travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, warned White House counsel Donald McGahn that Russia could potentially blackmail Flynn for contacts he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Those warnings went mostly ignored, as Flynn stayed on as national security adviser for the next 18 days until a bombshell Washington Post report stated that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Kislyak. Last week, Yates testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reiterated that she believed Flynn could have been blackmailed.

RELATED: A look at former acting Attorney General Sally Yates

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Sally Yates, former acting U.S. attorney general, swears in to a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, May 8, 2017. Yates said she warned the White House's top lawyer in late January that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about contacts with Russian officials and was potentially subject to blackmail by them. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) greets former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she testified about potential Russian interference in the presidential election before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill Washington, D.C., U.S. May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Going Dark: Encryption, Technology, and the Balance Between Public Safety and Privacy" in Washington July 8, 2015.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a meeting with FBI Director James Comey (C), Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates (R) along with DHS Secretary Charles Johnson (not pictured) and NCTC Director Nicholas Rasmussen (not pictured) at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice on June 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. Volkswagen has agreed to nearly $15 billion in a settlement over emissions cheating on its diesel vehicles.

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U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates (L) and FBI Director James Comey are sworn in to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Going Dark: Encryption, Technology, and the Balance Between Public Safety and Privacy" in Washington July 8, 2015.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates arrives to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on ?Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election? on Capitol Hill in Washington, U .S., May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (2nd R) and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L) prepare to testify on May 8, 2017, before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates (L) speaks alongside FBI Director James Comey (2L) and Chuck Rosenberg (C), acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as they attend a new Implicit Bias Training program at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, June 28, 2016. 

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Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Going Dark and data encryption in Washington, USA on JULY 8, 2015.

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Flanked by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez , Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice on June 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. Volkswagen has agreed to nearly $15 billion in a settlement over emissions cheating on its diesel vehicles.

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (2nd L) delivers closing remarks to the Justice Department Summit on Violence Crime Reduction with Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates (3rd L) and other Justice Department officials at the Washington Plaza Hotel October 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lynch invited mayors and police chiefs from 20 cities and other federal officials to the conference to discuss the root causes of crime and strategies for reducing it.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, in her office at the Justice Department, May 15, 2015, in Washington, DC. Yates, who was confirmed by the Senate yesterday, is a former career prosecutor from Atlanta.

(Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 08: Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates (R) and Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testify before the Senate Judicary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. Before being fired by U.S. President Donald Trump, Yates had warned the White House about contacts between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russia that might make him vulnerable to blackmail. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates is sworn in prior to testifying before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on ?Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election? on Capitol Hill in Washington, U .S., May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., U.S. May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
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In the interview set to air Tuesday night, the first clips from which CNN published Tuesday morning, Yates did not expand upon the criminal statute she suggested had been implicated by Flynn's conduct. She did express surprise that the White House waited 18 days before firing Flynn and that Flynn continued to sit in on meetings and calls with foreign dignitaries, including Russian leaders.

"I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage," she told CNN. "He also had lied to the vice president of the United States. Whether he's fired or not is a decision for the president of the United States to make. But, doesn't seem like that's a person should be sitting in the national security adviser position."

She said she didn't "how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue," but "it certainly wasn't from my discussion with them."

"We expected the White House to act," she said.

Yates also denied that she was the source of the leaks to multiple media outlets about Flynn, saying she "absolutely" was not the source and had never leaked classified information to the media.

"I did not and I would not leak classified information," she said.

Cooper asked Yates for her thoughts on Trump's tweet from the day of her Senate testimony when he asked senators to "ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to" the White House counsel.

"There have been a number of tweets that have given me pause," she said, declining to go further into her feelings on the subject.

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RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
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