Nancy is correct to emphasize that it’s quite possible, likely even, that many folks are drawing the wrong conclusions from the fact that Michael Flynn is seeking immunity before he’s willing to talk again to the FBI or testify before Congress. All it definitely means is that there’s a high probability that Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Whether he has something worthy of a trade for immunity is a separate matter. In other words, some folks are willing to say that they’re eager to talk to Congress, and others are warning that they’ll clam up real tight if called or subpoenaed to testify. Flynn is in the latter camp, and for obvious reasons.
If he was ever in any doubt about it, he now knows with a certainty that he’s been the subject of a multiagency counterintelligence investigation since at least July of last year. He’s seen the allegations made against him in the Steele dossier. If those things weren’t terrifying enough, he apparently was “less then forthcoming” with the FBI when they questioned him about the content of his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It’s also increasingly clear that even if the Intelligence Community and, in particular, the CIA didn’t see him as potential turncoat and Putin-controlled mole, he attempted to make war on them and lost.
His legal vulnerabilities are therefore huge and his enemies determined, which makes it less than helpful that he’s been caught dead to rights failing to report payments from the Russian government for his travel to Moscow to meet with and fête Vladimir Putin, nor to divulge that he was taking money from Turkey and was therefore serving as an agent of a foreign power. One might imagine that he’s committed perjury by paperwork on these issues as he got himself cleared to work as Trump’s National Security Adviser.
And then there’s the possibility that he could actually be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which he had the lack of foresight to engage in in the presence of a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey told CNN Friday that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn met with representatives of the Turkish government in 2016 and discussed potential ways to send a foe of Turkey’s president back to face charges in that country,
As a representative of his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Flynn met with senior representatives of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in September 2016, Woolsey said. Woolsey was a Trump campaign adviser at the time and attended the meeting, but said he arrived after it was already well underway.
Woolsey claims that those present discussed sending Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim leader who Erdogan has accused of being behind a failed military coup to overthrow him, back to Turkey to face charges — possibly outside the legal US extradition system.
“What I saw and heard was sort of the end of the conversation — it’s not entirely clear what transpired because of that,” Woolsey said on “CNN Tonight” with Don Lemon. “But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Americans present at the meeting that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey’s political situation.”
If a president could be impeached for lack of judgment, Trump’s decision to name Flynn as his National Security Adviser would be sufficient to remove him from power. It’s hard to gauge how crippling it would be to the administration for Flynn to discuss all of his criminal and potentially criminal activities in front of Congress. And that’s before he might divulge anything about Trump or his campaign or any coordination with the Russians.
Needless to say, if the FBI wants Flynn to talk, they have enough potential jail time to wave in front of him to make him sing like a canary. The question is, can Flynn help them enough in their counterintelligence investigation to make it worth trading away a bunch of convictions, some of which would be very easy to prove?
Some people have suggested that only by implicating Trump could he give the FBI a bigger scalp, but the FBI’s interest in understanding the facts and the scope and the nature of Russia’s tactics could be enough of an enticement to get them to talk about immunity. If that would tend to exonerate or vindicate Trump, it might still be good enough.
However, with so much criminal liability, Flynn won’t want to commit more perjury. So, either he’s going to keep quiet and take his medicine or he’s going to tell what he knows.
And that can’t be a comfort to Team Trump.
If he were insanely lucky, me might trick Congress into immunizing him against prosecution the same way that Congress inadvertently immunized Oliver North and John Poindexter against prosecution. I could definitely see Rep. Devin Nunes being a willing collaborator in that effort. But, that would still involve him testifying before Congress about everything, which could also destroy the Trump administration even if it saved Flynn’s hide. And, in any case, Nunes can’t give Flynn immunity unilaterally.
The best case for Trump is that Flynn invokes the Fifth Amendment and goes to jail without doing them any further damage. And he might do that if he can’t cut a deal.
Of course, a plea bargain may be the best he can negotiate, since there are so many looming charges against him.
So, no, the fact that Flynn has sought immunity doesn’t mean that he’s about to drop a dime on President Trump. But it does mean that Trump’s presidency is in a world of trouble.