Yates also recounted her attempt to warn the administration that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was likely "compromised", news that was reported by The Washington Post shortly after her dismissal.
She told CNN that Flynn was in a "serious compromise situation" and that Russians had "real leverage" over him. "The Russians had real leverage". "It certainly wasn't from my discussion with them", Yates told CNN Tuesday.
Trump fired Flynn in February, 18 days after Yates told the president about his conversations with Kislyak.
"I think this is a really troubling situation", said Yates, who was herself dismissed by President Donald Trump in late January after she refused to order the Justice Department to enforce his first travel ban, since held up by the courts.
Yates, when asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper if Flynn's Russian Federation ties were illegal, said, "There's certainly a criminal statute implicated by his conduct". "He also had lied to the Vice President of the United States".
The next day, Yates went back to the White House for another meeting with McGahn, where he allegedly asked her why the Department of Justice cares about one White House official lying to another White House official, according to the interview.
YATES: We expected the White House to act.
"I did not and I would not leak classified information", she said.
Cooper asked: "Do you want to elaborate on that?"
He reiterated that he fired Flynn not because of Yates' warning but because Flynn misled Pence.
The former U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, Yates became a symbol of the resistance to Trump's presidency when she was sacked for refusing to defend his executive order that closed the U.S.to refugees and restricted travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
In the CNN interview she denied she was the source for reports outing Flynn's contact with Kislyak that eventually led to his ouster.
"I did not, and I would not, leak classified information", Yates responded after Cooper asked her directly whether she leaked, or authorized someone to leak, information to the newspaper. "Not because I or anybody else had asked for it to be unmasked, but because that intelligence only made sense if you knew who the identity of the US person was, and that's an exception to the minimization requirements".
"Absolutely not", Yates told Cooper.
There have been a number of concerns, including that Flynn had violated the Logan Act, which outlaws private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States.
"I think there are serious questions about both the timing and the motivation of the president's actions", Yates said in an interview that aired Tuesday. I hope not, but it's too soon to know.
"But to have done anything else I felt like would have been an abdication of my responsibility", Yates said.
"(Yates) has betrayed the Department of Justice", the White House statement said.