FLYNN ‘HAS A STORY TO TELL’ – WITH IMMUNITY
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn wants immunity from “unfair prosecution” from the House and Senate intelligence committees in exchange for his testimony in probes of possible contacts between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, his attorney said yesterday.
“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” said Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner.
Kelner, accusing the media of being “awash with unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo,” said no “reasonable person” would answer questions without immunity, given calls from some members of Congress that the former lieutenant general should face criminal charges.
There was no immediate word on what kind of testimony Flynn might have to offer in exchange for immunity, but the Wall Street Journal, which initially reported the offer, cited officials saying it had not been accepted. The Washington Post reported that officials were skeptical of the offer and calling it a “non-starter” because the investigation is at an early stage. Kelner said “out of respect” for the committees, he and Flynn will not discuss details of their negotiations.
Flynn’s ties to Russia have been scrutinized by the FBI and are under investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees. Both panels are looking into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin.
Since July, the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference in the election and possible coordination with Trump associates.
A congressional aide confirmed that discussions with the Senate intelligence committee involved immunity. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
House intelligence committee spokesman Jack Langer said Flynn has not offered to testify to the committee in exchange for immunity.
Four other Trump associates have come forward in recent weeks, saying they would talk to the committees. As of Wednesday, the Senate intelligence committee had asked to interview 20 people as part of the probe.
In his statement, Kelner said the political climate in which Flynn is facing “claims of treason and vicious innuendo” is factoring into his negotiations with the committees.
“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,” Kelner said.
Flynn was fired as President Trump’s first national security adviser after it was disclosed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the transition.
In the weeks after he was forced out, Flynn and his business registered with the Justice Department as foreign agents for $530,000 worth of lobbying work that could have benefited the Turkish government.
The lobbying took place while Flynn was a top Trump campaign adviser. The Turkish businessman who hired Flynn, Ekim Alptekin, has told The Associated Press that Flynn’s firm registered under pressure from the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee heard testimony yesterday that Russian hackers targeted President Trump’s primary opponents, including Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“Through the end of 2015 and start of 2016, the Russian influence system began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election,” said Clinton Watts, a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security.
“Russia’s overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views toward the Kremlin.”