|Mike Flynn and Vlad Putin get their wine on|
Mod: House and Senate Traitorgate investigations just keep on moving forward, and at a most deliberate pace. Yesterday President Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to spill his guts in exchange for immunity from any prosecution. The New York Times picked up on this exciting development, and shared the following with the world. The entire NYT article is available at the link.
Michael Flynn Offers to Testify Before Congress in Exchange for Immunity (The New York Times link): Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, has offered to be interviewed by House and Senate investigators who are examining the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution, according to his lawyer and a congressional official.
But the congressional official said investigators were unwilling to broker a deal with Mr. Flynn — who resigned last month for misleading White House officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States — until they are further along in their inquiries and they better understand what information Mr. Flynn might offer as part of a deal.
In a statement on Thursday evening, Mr. Flynn’s lawyer confirmed discussions with the House and Senate intelligence committees about possible testimony by his client. The lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not provide specifics about the terms under which Mr. Flynn would testify, but said that “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.”
“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should circumstances permit,” the statement said.
The Wall Street Journal reported Mr. Flynn’s offer to testify.
The F.B.I. is investigating whether any of President Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government in its efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. An immunity deal would make it extraordinarily difficult for the Justice Department to prosecute Mr. Flynn.
It is unclear whether any of Mr. Trump’s other former advisers have asked for immunity from the congressional committees.
It is common for witnesses to demand immunity in exchange for their testimony to ensure that their words cannot be used to prosecute them. Under federal law, Congress can grant witnesses immunity for their testimony, but lawmakers normally do so only after consulting with prosecutors.
Congress normally avoids doing anything that could disrupt a federal investigation. Federal law allows the Justice Department to delay a congressional immunity deal but not block it outright.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Thursday evening.
As Michael Flynn’s lawyer said in a statement Thursday about his client’s offer to cooperate with congressional investigators in exchange for immunity from prosecution:
He is now the target of unsubstantiated public demands by Members of Congress and other political critics that he be criminally investigated. 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.
But Flynn saw immunity differently in September, 2016, when reports surfaced that aides around Hillary Clinton had been granted immunity by the government in exchange for talking freely to the FBI about Clinton’s private email server.
“When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime,” Flynn, then a top campaign aide to Donald Trump, said on Meet the Press.
“I think this answer is very simple and is one no one is really saying in this room,” he said. Part of the reason, he went on, “is the Commander In Chief has used Russian active measures at times against his opponents.”
To buttress the claim that Trump (unwittingly or not) aided Russian disinformation efforts, Watts cited several instances. Among them: Trump’s citation of an apparently false Sputnik story at an October 2016 campaign appearance; his ongoing denial before and after the campaign of U.S. intelligence of Russian interference in the election; his claims of voter fraud and election rigging, which Watts said was pushed by RT and Sputnik; and Trump’s questioning of the citizenship of former President Barack Obama and even his primary rival Ted Cruz.
Watts added that one of the reasons such tactics are working is that Trump and/or his surrogates have repeated some of the claims, further spreading them through social media accounts that are owned both by real people and bots. Thus, the disinformation is kept alive and gradually becomes more real and plausible. “Part of the reason active measures work is because they parrot the same lines,” Watts said.
Republicans on the committee today seemed to be grappling with the enormity of what this could mean — and, crucially, that this threat should not be seen through a partisan prism. Rubio questioned Watts about a series of such false news stories and hoaxes, including claims that a thousand Muslims had burned down the oldest church in Germany while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” that migrants had raped a German girl, and that the European Union planned to ban snowmen as racist.
If you’ve ever spent time on alt-right social media, there’s a familiar ring to these stories: they are exactly the sort of thing that gets spread and recycled, and reverberate as supposed evidence of the nefariousness of say, Muslims, or the overreach of “political correctness.”
Rubio seemed to suggest that he sees these tactics as intended to divide Americans from one another. “Aren’t we in the midst of a blitzkrieg, for lack of a better term, of informational warfare conducted by Russian trolls, under the command of Vladimir Putin,” Rubio asked, that is designed to divide Americans “politically, socioeconomically, demographically, and the like?” Watts confirmed that one of the aims of Russian active measures is to “play on ethnic divisions.”
It’s not clear yet how much significance these revelations have, if any, to the ongoing probe into possible Russian-Trump campaign collusion. But the gravity of today’s hearing — combined with the New York Times revelations — may prod Senate Republicans into stepping up, particularly to fill the vacuum caused by Nunes’ plummeting credibility.