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Trump’s baffling endorsement of Flynn’s immunity offer

“When you’re given immunity that probably means you’ve committed a crime.” — Michael Flynn

CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

On Thursday evening, news broke that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is seeking a deal that would allow him to be interviewed by the House or Senate intelligence committees about the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution. On Friday morning, Trump publicly endorsed the idea.

Trump’s open advocacy for criminal immunity for Flynn is remarkable, given that he has called reports about his campaign’s shady relationship with Russia “fake news,” “a ruse,” and a “hoax.”

Trump has reason to be careful about what he asks for. Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, is not a Trump supporter.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account Thursday evening, Kelner wrote that “General Flynn has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”

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“No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized, witch hunt environment without assurances against assurances against unfair prosecution,” he adds.

On the other hand, the public nature of Flynn’s offer has led some to believe it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Alex Whiting of the Just Security blog believes Flynn’s offer is “not a serious offer, and it suggests he has nothing to say (or is not willing to say anything that would incriminate others).”

“The fact that Flynn and his lawyer have made his offer publicly suggests that he has nothing good to give the prosecutors (either because he cannot incriminate others or is unwilling to do so),” Whiting adds. “If he had something good, Flynn and his lawyer would approach the prosecutors quietly, go through the proffer process in confidence, and reach a deal. Why? Because prosecutors have an interest in keeping their investigation secret, and Flynn’s lawyer knows that.”

What Flynn knows is a matter of speculation at this point, but what is for certain is that the immunity offer indicates he’s concerned about his own criminal liability. That’s significant in and of itself. During the campaign, both Flynn and Trump repeatedly insisted that innocent people don’t take immunity deals.

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In late September, news broke that a number of Clinton aides received immunity in exchange for their cooperation with the FBI’s investigation into her emails. Both Flynn and Trump seized upon that news as indicating that Clinton was guilty of something.

Flynn, who led “lock her up” chants at the Republican National Convention, went on Meet the Press and claimed that “when you’re given immunity that probably means you’ve committed a crime.”

During a rally on October 1 in Pennsylvania, Trump alluded to the immunity deals and said, “Did anybody else ever see so many people get immunity? Everybody! You’re guilty, you’re guilty, we’ll give everybody immunity. Well, what do you need to investigate if everyone’s gonna get immunity, right?”

He echoed that sentiment in a tweet posted during a debate eight days later.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news about Flynn’s immunity offer. The unnamed officials the Journal spoke with said Flynn “has made the offer to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees through his lawyer but has so far found no takers.”

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The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), suggested that the committees should wait to act on Flynn’s offer until Sally Yates — the former acting attorney general who blew the whistle about Flynn’s deceptions regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador — has a chance to testify.

Yates was supposed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this week, but that meeting was canceled by committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who was a Trump transition official and admitted last night that he colluded with the White House in a clumsy attempt to validate Trump’s discredited accusation that President Obama wiretapped him.