Robert Gates says Flynn blackmail fears are "kind of a stretch"

Interview: Robert Gates
Interview: Robert Gates 13:48

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is now the Chancellor of William & Mary, said that concerns Russians would be able to blackmail Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn because they knew he had said something untrue and then caused Vice President Mike Pence to say something untrue is "kind of a stretch." 

In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Gates did, however, say that it's "theoretically possible" that Flynn could have been blackmailed.

Gates, a former CIA director, also said that he would "tell the president" if he had information from an intelligence report that the national security adviser had failed to tell the truth about contacts with foreign officials. 

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates told Congress last week that she warned the White House that Flynn "essentially could be blackmailed" because he gave inaccurate information to his superiors about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. 

Gates weighs in on Comey's firing 02:26

"In all honesty, I think it's kind of a stretch," Gates said of any blackmailing concerns. "You know, it's one thing if somebody working for the U.S. government has sold secrets to the other side, it's another if they have something in their personal life that they're hiding for which they could be blackmailed. Having evidence that they didn't tell the truth to somebody in the same building where they work, maybe it's just the old intel guy, is -- it's a problem. And it's a problem, like I just said, that I would tell the president about."  

CBS News has confirmed that federal prosecutors probing Russian interference in last year's presidential election have issued grand jury subpoenas for business records of Flynn's associates. 

But Flynn's firing continues to be a controversial topic in the White House, with the White House hesitant to say anything negative about the fired adviser. Mr. Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey last week intensified the focus on the FBI, House and Senate investigations into Russian election meddling and any connections to Trump associates, as the White House accounts of the justification and timing of the firing decision conflict

The president has said Flynn should seek immunity over the "witch hunt" into his past. 

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    Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital based in Washington, D.C.