GOP senators let virus benefits expire while they investigated Obama


The Judiciary Committee heard testimony about unsupported allegations that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign in 2016.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Wednesday on unsupported accusations about the origins of the FBI's investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Vaguely dubbed "Obamagate," the conspiracy theory, pushed by Donald Trump, holds that the administration of former President Barack Obama spied on members of Trump's 2016 campaign team, specifically incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The hearing, which featured testimony by Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney general under Obama, comes as Senate Republicans allowed a $600 weekly boost to unemployment payments expire without any efforts to renew it, despite the fact that the Democratic-controlled House had passed an extension of the benefit back on May 15.

The fact that the Judiciary Committee hearing was held while the Republicans who run the Senate neglected to spend any time on the critical assistance for laid-off workers as it expired reflects the priorities of the GOP lawmakers. Trump has pushed for committee chair Lindsey Graham and other Republicans to investigate Obama — part of an effort to tie presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to the false allegations and help Trump's reelection bid.

"Sally Yates has zero credibility. She was a part of the greatest political crime of the Century, and ObamaBiden knew EVERYTHING! Sally Yates leaked the General Flynn conversation? Ask her under oath. Republicans should start playing the Democrats game!" Trump tweeted as the hearing proceeded.

Yates denied under oath that Flynn had been spied on. She pointed out that the FBI had intercepted conversations Flynn had with Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak about removing sanctions that had been placed on his country over its meddling in the 2016 election, and that Flynn had lied about them to the public and to FBI agents. These things made him a counterintelligence risk, Yates said.

Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

About a meeting in the Oval Office between her and President Obama on Jan. 5, 2017, Yates said: "During the meeting, the president, the vice president, the national security adviser did not attempt to any way to direct or influence any investigation." The outgoing administration was worried about sharing classified information with Flynn.

"General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government's message of deterrence," Yates said at the hearing.

Democrats criticized Graham for holding the hearing at all.

"While America burns, McConnell [and] Republicans can't be bothered to pass new stimulus checks we enacted 82 days ago but today they are spending their time investigating the Obama administration," Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey tweeted. "The republican party is unfit to govern and doesn't give a damn about you."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.