• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Trump’s Former National Security Adviser Seeks Immunity Deal

US Army Lt General Flynn testifies before House Intelligence Committee in Washington

Lt. General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser who was dismissed after it was revealed he had lied to the transition team and to Vice-President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador, is reportedly seeking an immunity agreement before agreeing to testify before Congressional committees investigating Russian efforts to influence the election and the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia:

WASHINGTON — Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, has offered to be interviewed by House and Senate investigators who are examining the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution, according to his lawyer and a congressional official.

But the congressional official said investigators were unwilling to broker a deal with Mr. Flynn — who resigned last month for misleading White House officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States — until they are further along in their inquiries and they better understand what information Mr. Flynn might offer as part of a deal.

In a statement on Thursday evening, Mr. Flynn’s lawyer confirmed discussions with the House and Senate intelligence committees about possible testimony by his client. The lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not provide specifics about the terms under which Mr. Flynn would testify, but said that “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 unfair prosecution.”

“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should circumstances permit,” the statement said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Mr. Flynn’s offer to testify.

The F.B.I. is investigating whether any of President Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government in its efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. An immunity deal would make it extraordinarily difficult for the Justice Department to prosecute Mr. Flynn.

It is unclear whether any of Mr. Trump’s other former advisers have asked for immunity from the congressional committees.

It is common for witnesses to demand immunity in exchange for their testimony to ensure that their words cannot be used to prosecute them. Under federal law, Congress can grant witnesses immunity for their testimony, but lawmakers normally do so only after consulting with prosecutors.

Congress normally avoids doing anything that could disrupt a federal investigation. Federal law allows the Justice Department to delay a congressional immunity deal but not block it outright.

“At this early stage, I wouldn’t read anything into this request beyond smart lawyering,” said Mark Zaid, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security cases. “In such a politically charged, high-profile national security case, I couldn’t imagine not first asking for immunity.”

“I would suspect both Congress and the F.B.I. will first generate additional evidence from smaller players before deciding to immunize General Flynn,” Mr. Zaid said.

The news of this request from Flynn’s attorney, which can be seen in the letter released on the letterhead of Covington & Burling, a top Washington D.C. law firm, dropped late yesterday afternoon and quickly became the subject of speculation and comment on all three cable news networks. While Flynn’s attorney doesn’t formally use the word ‘immunity’ in his letter, it’s clear that this is what they are aiming for, with the added implication that Flynn may choose to invoke his rights under the Fifth Amendment if not granted immunity. One thing the lawyer does say in the letter is that Flynn has “a story” to tell and that they were seeking assurances against “unfair prosecution.” Naturally, much of this led to speculation on the part of pundits and legal analysts, the last of whom should know better given their legal training, that Flynn was either guilty of something or that he had information that would implicate someone higher up in the Administration than he in some kind of criminal activity. While it’s possible that either one of these could be true, it’s far too early in the process to tell and rather irresponsible to draw conclusions from the fact that Flynn is seeking immunity before voluntarily putting himself before a likely hostile panel of Senators and Congressmen.

As we already know, there is already an ongoing criminal investigation of both Russian intervention in the election and the Trump campaign’s contact(s) with Russia, and it’s more likely than not that Lt. General Flynn is one of the people that investigators are looking into regarding both issues, it should not come as a surprise that Flynn’s lawyer is seeking an immunity deal for his client. First of all, given the fact that there is an ongoing criminal investigation regarding all of this it would be foolish for anyone who is a potential target to testify before Congress without immunity. If immunity isn’t granted, then it would be foolish for him or her to testify at all instead of invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This is especially true given the fact that Flynn is clearly in the center of whatever it is that is going on here. Additionally, there have been reports that Flynn and his company engaged in lobbying on behalf of a foreign government without properly registering with the Federal Government as required by law. Because of all of this, any testimony that Flynn gives without an immunity agreement could potentially be used against him as part of the wider criminal investigation. Additionally, as people ranging from Scooter Libby to Martha Stewart have learned, giving inconsistent testimony could be a basis for criminal charges totally unrelated to the underlying case. Given all of this, seeking an immunity deal is something that any competent attorney representing a similarly situated client would do, and if no such deal is possible then the only rational thing for the client to do would be to invoke their rights under the Fifth Amendment rather than risk having their Congressional testimony used to aid an investigation or, even worse, used as evidence in any future attempted criminal prosecution.

Second, the fact that someone is seeking immunity or chooses to invoke the Fifth Amendment should never be taken or assumed to be evidence of guilt. As I’ve argued before, the right against self-incrimination is among the most important guarantees contained in the Bill of Rights and no person should be compelled to give testimony that could potentially incriminate them. Additionally, a lawyer who didn’t advise their client that they should either seek immunity or invoke their rights under the Fifth Amendment in the situation that Flynn faces would be guilty of serious malpractice. Despite the breathless headlines, what Flynn’s attorney is doing here is standard good lawyering. Whether the relevant committee(s) choose to grant some form of immunity will ultimately be up to them, but they clearly won’t get Flynn’s cooperation without taking his legal rights into account, and that’s exactly how the legal system is supposed to work.

Third, it’s still possible there’s nothing to all of this. I suppose it is natural for people to engage in speculation about what “story” Flynn might have to tell in exchange for immunity. Indeed, committee members and investigators at the Justice Department will most likely insist upon some kind of off the record proffer of Flynn’s expected testimony before agreeing to any immunity deal. Additionally, it’s only natural for people outside the investigation to ponder what various developments might mean and there is some logic to the idea that Flynn may be seeking a deal to avoid prosecution in exchange for him giving information on a “bigger fish” in the Trump Administration involved in contact with the Russians before and after the Presidential Election. At the same time, though, all of that is speculation best left to the talking heads on cable news. The news that Flynn is seeking immunity could mean something important and dangerous for the Trump Administration, or it could mean nothing at all. We just don’t have enough information to know which, and that’s why this matter needs to be investigated fully.

On a final note, it is worth noting that there’s no small degree or irony and hypocrisy in Flynn seeking immunity at this time. During the Presidential campaign, when he was giving speeches and acting as a surrogate for the campaign, Flynn noted that several people who had been questioned in connection with the then-ongoing investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server were given immunity in advance of their testimony and stated that “When you are given immunity, that means that you’ve probably committed a crime.” President Trump said pretty much the same thing last October:

With this morning’s report of Flynn’s request for immunity, though, Trump seems to have changed his mind:

One wonders if Trump even recognizes his own hypocrisy.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Joe says:

    Oliver North. Ah, I remember fondly how that brought Reagan to impeachment for his dealings with Iranians and contras!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  2. Argon says:

    Soon to be a FOX consultant, if not already.

    As usual, it’s often the cover-up that finally entangles people, not the initial crime.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. MarkedMan says:

    Drip, drip, drip….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    One wonders if Trump even recognizes his own hypocrisy.

    I doubt he even knows the meaning of the word.
    He’s proving to be even dumber than I thought he was. Certainly dumber than I thought it was possible for the POTUS to be.

    On the topic…I wonder what Flynn really has to say? I think the most telling thing in all this is that neither the FBI nor the Committees on the Hill appear to be jumping at his offer. This could mean he doesn’t have anything to offer, or they already have enough on him that it doesn’t matter.

    I’m certainly no fan…but I happened to watch Morning Joe today while I was working out…and they were practically laughing at how incompetent these people are. I mean…these were serious journalists like Water Isaacson and David Ignatius. Laughing at the White House.
    Comb-over Donnie is going to get a lot of people killed.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  5. SenyorDave says:

    @Joe: I’ve always thought that if a Democrat had been president and done a deal similar to Iran-Contra impeachment and conviction (or resignation) would have been a quick, done deal. Think about it, an administration selling weapons to an enemy (who had taken US hostages and held them for over a year!) and then using the profits to fund an illegal war.
    The only way Trump is impeached or resigns over the Russian connections is if the media uncovers something that forces the Republican’s hands or the Republicans decide that Trump is an albatross around their necks.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 2

  6. Ben in RI says:

    I’m no supporter of this administration, but there’s really nothing noteworthy here. This is a bog-standard legal move. Any competent attorney would do it, and if I were Flynn I’d do the same, even if I was clean as a whistle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Lock him up!

    Referencing another frequent past statement by Flynn demonstrating “no small degree or irony and hypocrisy’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Considering what Flynn has said earlier about those who are looking for immunity deals, I think the. Exact. Same. Rules. Should be applied to him.

    After all, goose, gander, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Think about it, an administration selling weapons to an enemy (who had taken US hostages and held them for over a year!) and then using the profits to fund an illegal war.

    I think the thing with Iran-Contra is that it was amazingly complex. I don’t think a lot of people understand it all, even today.
    These clowns aren’t smart enough to do anything complex.
    Iran-Contra was 3-D chess…This is drunk checkers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. Scott says:

    A couple of things that apply here. Does Flynn believe he is in real legal danger? And does he have some real germane information to tell?

    If Flynn believes he is in legal danger, he will try to leverage what he knows for protection. I would think the one thing he would be totally concerned about would be protecting his military retirement for his wife. He is still subject to the UCMJ. He is facing enormous legal bills so he would want to protect that.

    So the committees and Justice department can hold that over his head but it depends on whether he has a real story to tell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve noticed something missing in the last few days: there are no senior Republicans even trying to minimize this, much less defend the President. Cheeto Jebus screwed the pooch when he stuck the knife in Ryan’s back with the Pirro thing. Repubs have all been terrified about what would happen if they didn’t go along with the Comb Over in Chief, but now it seems to be dawning on them that even someone trying to execute on Trump’s plans will get the long knife in the end. They may not be ready to impeach, but they are increasing not willing to stick so much as a toe out to help him.

    Unlike Reagan, Trump has no allies. He has no good will. And he has record breaking high disapproval and low approval. Think about it. The only President to beat this god awful record got us involved in the two disastrous wars under false pretenses, presided with colossal ineptitude over a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions (Katrina), and fiddled while the country descended into the worst financial disaster since the great depression. And it took him nearly two full terms to reach that nadir. Oh Donnie Boy, the pipes are blowing, and you are only 10 weeks into your term.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  12. Paul L. says:

    I hope Lt. General Michael Flynn pleas the Fifth.
    Great to watch Lois Lerner Defenders like Doug lose it over that.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 19

  13. @Paul L.:

    Clearly you didn’t read the post you’re responding to.

    If Flynn invokes his rights under the Fifth Amendment, I’ll say the same thing I did when Lois Lerner did it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  14. Mikey says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Oh Donnie Boy, the pipes are blowing, and you are only 10 weeks into your term.

    Aaaagh…you’re killin’ me, man. Sometimes it feels like it’s been 10 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Lit3Bolt says:

    Alex Whiting has a good article about this, Doug. He suggests that this is a desperate ploy against Congress, hoping to poison any trials with a public Congressional testimony from Flynn, a la Oliver North.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Gavrilo says:

    I have no problem speculating that Flynn violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. Mikey says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    a public Congressional testimony from Flynn, a la Oliver North

    Flynn is nowhere near as likable as Ollie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Mikey says:

    @Gavrilo: Yeah, he’s not going to offer an interview under immunity for that. Try again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Paul L.: @Doug Mataconis: In fairness Doug did fairly treat Lerner, making him almost unique among Republicans. (OK Libertarian.)

    Lock him up.
    (Not Doug. Flynn, Manafort, Stone, Sessions, Nunes, Trump, whoever)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Moosebreath says:

    @Gavrilo:

    “I have no problem speculating that Flynn violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act.”

    I have little doubt that he did. However, why would Congress grant immunity in exchange for his testimony if that is all he has to say? Or as Josh Marshall put it:

    “Mike Flynn tells the FBI he’s willing to talk, but only for immunity. But you only get immunity if you deliver someone else higher up the ladder. And there’s only one person higher up the ladder.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Much ado about nothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Republicans seem to be granted an assumption of respectability. A corollary of IOKIYAR. I think a lot of people simply didn’t believe Republicans, especially St. Ronald of Bel Air, could have done anything as ridiculous as Iran-Contra.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. Gavrilo says:

    @Moosebreath:

    You sure about that? The FBI granted immunity to Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, John Bentel, Bryan Pagliano, and Paul Combetta in the course of investigating Hillary Clinton’s private email server. They didn’t deliver anyone higher up the ladder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  24. Scott says:

    No matter. Apparently the Senate Committee turned him down.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/senate-intelligence-committee-rejects-immunity-michael-flynn-n741061

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @SenyorDave:

    The only way Trump is impeached or resigns over the Russian connections is …

    … a dead hooker or a live boy.

    He pretty well wiped every other thing off the list already.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Yep, the dogs who are not barking.

    We are not getting ‘wave-offs’ from anyone in the intel community, or in politics. There is clearly a cover-up under way and Washington hands with IQs above room temperature aren’t looking to grab a piece of that.

    There is growing contempt for both Trump and Ryan in their own ranks. Now Trump is trying to bully right-wing fanatics elected with 30% margins to support a bill which, had it made it past the Senate, would have likely cost Republicans the House? Disfunction doesn’t begin to cover the meltdown in the GOP.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Scott: which means either “we think you’re a minnow” or “naah, we got the stinkin’ evidence on you and your cohorts already.” Or “no, we already know that in exchange for any immunity deal we’d get five hours of “I don’t remember” and we’re not going to go for that.”

    I’m wondering if this fuss is also partly because Flynn thinks he’s more important than he actually is, at least for the Russian escapade. Congress isn’t looking into Flynn’s escapades for Turkey….yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. grumpy realist says:

    OT but have people seen the latest cow-flop attached to Brexit?

    As one of the comments said: “These guys couldn’t fill a bathtub.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Hal_10000 says:

    @Mikey:

    TBF: North argued that he was doing what he felt was right for the country. There was a very vociferous debate over whether we should be backing the Contras (and the Boland Amendment) and a lot of people were sympathetic to that (although not the idea of selling weapons to Iran). Flynn … doesn’t have that fallback. If he goes before Congress and testifies that he facilitated Russian interference in the election (or know who did), he will be pilloried. And deservedly so. There’s no way he can spin that as advancing an American interest.

    My gut reaction to this news is that Flynn doesn’t know much. Or at most, he can say something about Manafort. I think he’s bluffing and trying to weasel out of his own documented misdeeds. But we’ll see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  30. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:
    The noose is tightening. Flynn clearly lied about his conflicts of interest having to do both with Russia and Turkey. Manafort has clearly been laundering money for the Russian mob/oligarchs. Roger Stone has clearly conspired with the FSB. Those three have excellent chances of ending up in a tiny room with bars on the door and a big, mean murderer in the lower bunk.

    The obvious suggestion here is that Trump has been borrowing cash he knew was laundered Russian mob money. That makes Trump a money-launderer himself, a felony.

    In addition the dossier isn’t going away. I suspect Putin has video of the Donald doing bad things with professional ladies not his wife.

    The pushback now is to the effect that Putin was just broadly messing with the system to sow discord, but I don’t believe it. Putin wanted Trump. Why? Because he owns Trump. That is the only conclusion that fits the facts we know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  31. CSK says:

    OT, I know, but I was fairly sure that Trump would call Kim Jong Un a “crazy fat kid” well before John McCain did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:
  33. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The obvious suggestion here is that Trump has been borrowing cash he knew was laundered Russian mob money. That makes Trump a money-launderer himself, a felony.

    The New Yorker had a long piece making a similar case wrt/ Trump’s hotel deal in Azerbaijan. They appear to have not done the due diligence that’s routinely done to avoid violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The project appears designed to feed money to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Wonder how Tom Cotton feels about that?

    Lock him up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  34. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Hahaha…admitted serial sexual assaulter names April Sexual Assualt Awareness Month.
    You can’t make this shit up…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Moosebreath says:

    @Gavrilo:

    “They didn’t deliver anyone higher up the ladder.”

    No, they just delivered just headlines which implied Hillary had something to hide. Which was after all the purpose of the investigation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. CSK says:

    And in the next episode of Annals of the Bizarre, Trump stalked out of an executive order signing ceremony …without signing the executive order, which he assured us was wonderful. Pence chased after him (literally) but couldn’t get Trump to come back into the Oval Office. So Pence had to scoop up the folder containing the order and take off with it.

    Some people are contending that Trump was peeved because Major Garrett asked him a question about Flynn, but it seems to me that Trump started walking away before Garrett could get all the words out of his mouth.

    As I say, it was quite bizarre. Maybe Trump was desperate to find a men’s room.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  37. James in Bremerton says:

    @CSK: When was his last presser?

    This goes downhill quickly now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. CSK says:

    @James in Bremerton:

    This business of walking out of the room without signing the EO happened yesterday. I don’t think Sean Spicer has held a presser to “explain” what occurred. Trump’s been Tweeting up a storm, though not about this, last I checked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. grumpy realist says:

    Oh, and the National Enquirer has decided to out Flynn as a Russian mole.

    I wonder who came up with THAT idea? And is this a case of the National Enquirer trying to get Trump to believe that Flynn is a mole (and throw him under the bus), or something else?

    In either case, the end result is a pissed-off Flynn who is very willing to state everything he knows about Trump and Russian money.

    As a chaos generator, it makes one wonder how much Russian money has trickled in the National Enquirer’s direction, no?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Interesting, because Trump cited the National Enquirer as his unimpeachable source for the fact that Ted Cruz is a serial adulterer and that Rafael Cruz helped Lee Harvey Oswald assassinate JFK.

    The Enquirer appears to be Trump’s default paper of record.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. CSK says:

    A la The National Enquirer, this is worth a read, too:

    http://www.nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/national-enquirer-paid-to-kill-trump-affair-story-report.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. CSK says:

    If it was Trump, or someone speaking for him, who directed the Enquirer to publish a story claiming that Flynn’s a Russian spy, what does Trump gain from this? Flynn has every reason in the world now to attack Trump. Is Trump going to say that he heroically unmasked a traitor?

    Flynn probably knows where a lot of bodies are buried, and if Trump throws him to the wolves, then Flynn’s going to be exhuming those corpses p.d.q.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  43. MarkedMan says:

    Whatever Trump is scheming, I’m sure he is well aware he can promise anyone that he will pardon them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Franklin says:

    @Paul L.: An attempt to score a partisan point … and a big whiff, as usual from our friend Paul. Like to play again?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @CSK: Doubtful given his reputation of being incompetent. Flynn was a useful idiot who’s being dispatched by the Administration. He’s got nothing but its in his interest to make people (and the Administration) believe that he might. There is chance however that he’s leveraged some of his professional intel contacts to get some dirt on Trump but that’s nothing he could reveal in an on-the-record hearing because it would be illegal for him to have the information and illegal for the contact to share it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. Ultimately, you never desire a Search Engine Optimization company that doesn’t get back to you to respond to concerns or questions and doesn’t use
    your recommended technique of interaction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. Full Article says:

    There are a lot of inquiries you can ask a future SEO firm you’re
    planning to work with, and the above are just highlights of one of the most important ones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0