Donald Trump says former security adviser Michael Flynn should seek immunity to testify in Russia probe

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives prior to a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump at the White House.
White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives prior to a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump at the White House. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump said his former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, should seek immunity from prosecution, calling investigations into alleged contacts between the Trump administration and the Russian government a political “witch hunt.”

“Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!” Trump said on Friday (March 31) in a Twitter post, using shorthand for Democrats.

While it’s unclear if Trump was coordinating with his former adviser, Flynn has told investigators that he’s willing to be interviewed in return for immunity from prosecution. A congressional official confirmed on condition of anonymity that Flynn made the offer.

“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, said in a statement late Thursday.

“We will not comment right now on the details of discussions between counsel for General Flynn and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, other than to confirm that those discussions have taken place.”

THE TARGET

Flynn’s lawyer suggested immunity is justified because his client is “the target of unsubstantiated public demands by Members of Congress and other political critics that he be criminally investigated.”

Kelner, a partner at Covington and Burling LLP in Washington, said: “No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicised, witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution.”

Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, was forced out of the Trump administration after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US after Trump’s victory.  

FBI Director James Comey has told Congress that the bureau’s probe into Russian hacking of last year’s presidential election “includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn made the offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and two congressional committees.

Trump has repeatedly said that allegations he’s tied to the Russians are “fake news.”

CONGRESSIONAL PROBES 

The House and Senate Intelligence committees are also investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, including any contacts between Trump associates and Russia.

Jack Langer, a spokesman for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HSPCI), said “Flynn has not offered to testify to HPSCI in exchange for immunity.”

Flynn, who ran the Defence Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, was one of Trump’s closest advisers during the campaign and briefly held one of the most sensitive jobs in the administration, which carries the highest-level security clearance. He has been at the top of the list for Democrats and others investigating the possible Russia connections.

TURKEY AND RUSSIA

In the weeks after Flynn left the administration, new details emerged about his business ties with Turkey’s government and Russian entities.

Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department for work that his firm, Flynn Intel Group, did for a Dutch consulting company, Inovo BV, which has ties to President Recep Erdogan of Turkey. Flynn’s filing showed that his company received US$530,000 (S$739,297)  from Inovo between Sept 9 and Nov 14.

Kelner wrote in a letter accompanying the filing that Flynn had previously registered with Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, but made the new filing because the work could have been interpreted as benefiting the government of Turkey. Lobbying on behalf of a foreign government requires registration with the Justice Department.

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Oversight Committee are seeking documents related to Flynn’s security clearance applications and contacts and payments from Russian, Turkish and any other foreign sources including the Kremlin-backed media outlet RT, dating from Flynn’s 2014 retirement from the Defence Intelligence Agency to the present.

They also want documents connected to Flynn’s vetting for the national security post, his work with a speaker’s bureau and any documentation that Flynn sought US approvals for payments from foreign sources.

Democrats on the House committee last week released documents showing Flynn received more than US$45,000 from RT for taking part in a December 2015 gala where he sat at President Vladimir Putin’s table.

Other documents showed that Flynn, who received US$11,250 for a 2015 speaking engagement in Washington for Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, Inc., a US subsidiary of a Russian cybersecurity firm; and an US$11,250 payment from Volga-Dnepr Airlines.

Price Floyd, a spokesman for Flynn, said the retired lieutenant general “both informed and fully briefed” the Defence Intelligence Agency about his Russia trip beforehand and when he returned.