WASHINGTON — Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s request for immunity in exchange for offering testimony to Congress isn’t finding takers at the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are indicating it’s too early in their respective investigations to know if he should be afforded the privilege.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday evening that Flynn’s attorney was shopping around for a guarantee of immunity from prosecution; today, NBC News reported Senate Intelligence Committee aides said the request was “wildly premature” and that committee lawmakers are “not receptive” to the request right now.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) told MSNBC late Thursday that he and Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) made a pact to not talk about specific witnesses or “what we will do or won’t do.”
“Obviously, a lot of the names that have been mentioned, we’ll want to talk to at an appropriate time,” Warner said. “The only specific individual we’ve indicated that is — that we’ll be bringing in, but not in the immediate future, is Jared Kushner.”
On the House side, Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said today that lawmakers “should first acknowledge what a grave and momentous step it is for a former national security advisor to the president of the United States to ask for immunity from prosecution.”
“We will be discussing the matter with our counterparts on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Department of Justice,” Schiff said. “While Mr. Flynn’s testimony is of great interest to our committee, we are also deeply mindful of the interests of the Department of Justice in the matter.”
“Additionally, as with any investigation — and particularly one that grows in severity and magnitude by the day — there is still much work and many more witnesses and documents to obtain before any immunity request from any witnesses can be considered.”
One of those investigative details, he added, was obtaining and reviewing Flynn’s background check documents to see if he correctly reported work on behalf of a foreign entity. Earlier this month, a Flynn attorney registered the former DIA chief with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Unit, stating that $530,000 worth of work done by Flynn’s consulting firm between August and November “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”
Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner responded to the immunity-request report in a statement declaring that the former national security advisor “has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”
Kelner, a former speechwriter for Jack Kemp, wouldn’t comment on the process with the intelligence committees, other than to confirm “those discussions have taken place.”
He said Flynn sought the immunity because “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.”
President Trump echoed in an early-morning tweet: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”
At the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Trump thinks Flynn should testify, and “thinks that he should go up there and do what he has to do to get the story out.” With or without immunity, Spicer said, “that’s up to him and his lawyer to decide.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a former Alameda County deputy district attorney, told CNN today that “generally, immunity isn’t something you’d give to innocent people.”
“You want to know what they can give first,” Swalwell said of offering subjects immunity, and until he has an idea of what Flynn wants to say, “I’m not interested in that.”