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The Latest: Trump calls Russia probe ‘a total hoax’

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing: "Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the congressional probe into Russia in the 2016 election (all times local):

7:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is calling investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia’s election meddling a “taxpayer funded charade” and a “total hoax.”

Trump is weighing in on Twitter following a congressional hearing on Russian interference.

The president says former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, one of the officials who testified Monday, “said nothing but old news!”

Yates testified about her attempts to warn the White House that national security adviser Michael Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia because he misled top officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Flynn was forced to resign after Yates’ warning became public.

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6 p.m.

The United States needs to do more to respond to Russia’s meddling in last year’s election.

That’s the opinion of former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who testified Monday before a Senate subcommittee.

Yates says the U.S. needs to do more to harden election systems and inform Americans about disinformation campaigns disguised as regular news reports. She also says it wouldn’t hurt for the U.S. to prosecute some individuals for their roles in the interference in last year’s election.

Clapper favors making U.S. election systems part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, although he notes that many states have pushed back against the idea because they fear federal intervention in the electoral process.

Clapper also says the U.S. has to do more to counter propaganda.

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3:55 p.m.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates says she believed Vice President Mike Pence was “entitled to know” that he was relaying untruthful information about the White House national security adviser.

Yates tells a Senate judiciary subcommittee that’s one reason she raised concerns with the White House about Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser.

Flynn was fired following news reports that he had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition, even though Pence said publicly that the topic had not come up. The White House has said Pence was relying on information from Flynn.

Days after the inauguration, Yates informed the White House that the Justice Department had information a discrepancy between Pence’s assertions and Flynn’s conversations with the Russian envoy.

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3:45 p.m.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates says the White House asked the FBI whether firing Mike Flynn would interfere with the agency’s counterintelligence investigation about the national security adviser’s contacts with Russian figures.

Yates told a Senate subcommittee on Monday that when she met with White House counsel Don McGahn, she told him that firing the national security adviser would not interfere in the FBI investigation.

Yates is testifying about going to the White House to report Flynn’s contacts with Russians that ran counter to what he told Vice President Mike Pence, and what Pence told the public. Yates was raising concerns to the Trump administration about contacts between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

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3:25 p.m.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates says she had two meetings and one phone call with White House counsel Don McGahn about concerns that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “could be blackmailed” by the Russians.

Yates says she told McGahn that the Russians knew about what Flynn had done and the Russians knew that Flynn had misled the vice president and others about what he had done. Yates did not specify what that was.

Yates says she was giving President Donald Trump’s White House this information so that it could take actions it “deemed appropriate.”

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3:20 p.m.

The former national intelligence director says that he was not aware of the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into Russia meddling in the election during his time as head of the nation’s 17 spy agencies.

James Clapper retired the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated. He told a Senate congressional subcommittee on Monday that when spy agencies obtain information suggesting that an American might be acting on behalf of a foreign power, the standard practice is to share that information with the FBI.

He says that as a consequence, he was not aware of the counterintelligence investigation that FBI Director James Comey acknowledged during his March 20 testimony before the House intelligence committee.

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3:05 p.m.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Russia is now “emboldened” to interfere in elections in the U.S. and around the world.

Clapper is testifying on Capitol Hill.

He says Russia’s meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election amounted to a “high-water mark” in its decades-long efforts to interfere in political contests. Clapper says he hopes Americans recognize the severity of the threat posed by Russia and that the U.S. moves to counter Moscow before it “further erodes the fabric of our democracy.”

Clapper served as director of national intelligence until President Donald Trump took office.

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2:50 p.m.

The top intelligence official in the Obama administration tells senators that there is a difference between “unmasking” the name of an American in an intelligence report and leaking classified information.

It’s a distinction that has come up repeatedly in the past few months after President Donald Trump has tweeted about both issues.

James Clapper says “unmasking” is an unofficial term for the routine and legal request to reveal an American’s name that has been hidden for privacy reasons in intelligence reports. He says he has made these requests himself over the years.

Clapper says a leak is the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and says that is improper under any circumstance.

Clapper was testifying on Monday before a Senate judiciary subcommittee about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

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1:30 p.m.

The White House says former President Barack Obama made it clear to Donald Trump that he “wasn’t exactly a fan” of Michael Flynn.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday that Flynn was an outspoken critic of Obama’s “lack of strategies.” Spicer said that if Obama “was seriously concerned” about Flynn’s connections to Russia or other foreign countries, he should have withheld Flynn’s security clearance. Flynn served under Obama as defense intelligence chief but was later dismissed.

Responding to a question over whether Obama voiced concerns over Trump’s choice of Flynn for his national security adviser, Spicer said he would not disclose the details of the meeting.

Flynn was asked to resign in early February after it became clear Flynn misled senior members of Trump’s administration about his communications with Russian government officials.

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11:30 a.m.

President Barack Obama warned Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as national security adviser in the days after the 2016 election.

That’s according to three former Obama administration officials.

The warning came during an Oval Office meeting between Obama and Trump after the Republican’s victory. Flynn had been fired by the Obama administration as the head of the military’s intelligence branch.

Trump ultimately tapped Flynn as national security adviser, but fired him after less than a month. The White House says Flynn was fired for misleading top officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Trump has both defended Flynn and blamed the Obama administration for giving him security clearance.

The officials requested anonymity in order to disclose the private conversation.

-By White House Correspondent Julie Pace

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8:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump is distancing himself from Michael Flynn’s troubles, tweeting that it was the Obama administration that gave Flynn the “highest security clearance.”

Flynn was dismissed under President Barack Obama as defense intelligence chief before becoming an ardent supporter of Trump and eventually Trump’s national security adviser.

Sally Yates, former deputy attorney general, is expected to testify Monday that she had warned the White House about contacts between Flynn and Russia before being fired by Trump.

Trump tweeted Monday that Flynn was “given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that.”

In a second tweet, Trump said Yates should be asked under oath “if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers” soon after she raised concerns about Flynn.

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3:20 a.m.

An Obama official who warned the White House about contacts between President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser and Russia is set to speak publicly about her worries.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is testifying Monday before a Senate subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the election. Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper also is testifying.

Yates is expected to illuminate what led to the ouster of Michael Flynn. His resignation followed reports that Flynn discussed Russia sanctions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, contrary to White House statements.

A person familiar with Yates’ plans says she is likely to testify she expressed alarm about discrepancies between the statements and what occurred. Trump officials have said Yates merely gave a “heads-up.”

The person was not authorized to discuss the testimony on the record.

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