Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn has been shopping around a deal to investigators that would give the former Trump official immunity in return for his testimony on Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. According to the Journal, Flynn’s lawyers have approached both the House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as the FBI, about a possible deal to shield the early Trump supporter from potential prosecution, but Flynn has found no takers.
What does this mean? Well, for starters, it’s obviously not a good look for Flynn, who is now on the outside of the Trump administration looking in after getting canned less than a month into the job for his Russia-related activities. It is also a worrisome sign for the White House. Flynn was an early backer of Trump, the campaign’s top national security adviser, and presumably on the inside of the most sensitive discussions and communications on the campaign, during the transition, and in the (very) early days of the Trump presidency.
Flynn, like just about everyone on Team Trump, has a long, strange affinity for all things Russia. During the transition, Flynn surreptitiously reassured Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak that the Trump administration would soon reverse Obama-imposed sanctions enacted as retaliation for Russian election meddling. Was there more contact? More deals and assurances? Possibly. Flynn’s retroactive registration as a foreign agent with the DOJ for his paid work with Turkey and the fact he was paid tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees by several Russian companies just before joining the Trump campaign certainly indicates that the Flynn's role in the Russian inquiry is far from over. But does he have the goods, explicitly linking the White House and Trump to the Russians in some form?
It's important to remember that Flynn has, on the face of it, already committed a crime—and may have committed others that don't necessarily incriminate the Trump campaign. Days after the inauguration, Flynn lied to the FBI about the nature of his contact with the Russian ambassador, denying that they had discussed the sanctions. Lying to the FBI is a felony offense. “Democratic lawmakers have requested a copy of the security-clearance form that Mr. Flynn was required to file before joining Mr. Trump in the White House, to see if he disclosed sources of foreign income,” according to the Journal. Who knows what federal forms Flynn may have fudged. That would be embarrassing to the administration, but perhaps not fatal. The fact that investigators have so far refused to offer immunity in return for Flynn’s testimony appears to mean either they don’t think he has valuable enough information on Trump’s Russia ties or that they’ve already got him dead to rights. Or both. But it’s also still early days and the myriad of investigations may not yet know exactly where Flynn fits in the larger puzzle of Trump’s connections to Russia. This could simply be Flynn’s opening legal gambit, knowing where things are likely headed later.
In response to the Journal’s reporting, Flynn’s lawyer released a somewhat cagey statement Thursday evening. “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” the statement reads. “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.” That statement, while true, reads an awful lot like a PR campaign to drum up support for immunity. Saying your client “certainly has a story to tell” doesn’t seem like the lawerly way to say your guy is not guilty and looks forward to his day in court; it sounds like a lawyer who’s negotiating.
Update, 8:30 p.m.: Flynn on Hillary Clinton and what he thinks of immunity as an indicator of guilt when it's not his own innocence or guilt that's on the line.