Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday that ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s reported ask for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony was “a grave and momentous step” for the former top official in President Donald Trump’s administration.
Schiff, whose committee is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said it is far too early for any immunity requests to be considered.
“With respect to the offer by the attorney for Michael Flynn that he would be willing to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, but only in exchange for immunity, we should first acknowledge what a grave a momentous step it is for a former national security adviser to the president of the United States to ask for immunity from prosecution,” Schiff said in a statement. “We will be discussing the matter with out counterparts on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Department of Justice.”
The California Democrat added that while Flynn’s testimony is “of great interest to our committee,” the members are “deeply mindful” of the DOJ’s interests in the case. The FBI is also investigating, as Director James Comey said during a hearing last week before the committee, potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials surrounding the election.
“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 witness can be considered,” Schiff said.
As an example, Schiff said he is still waiting to receive documents on whether Flynn “properly reported any work he may have conducted on behalf of a foreign entity.”
Late Thursday, The Wall Street Journal first reported that Flynn offered to testify before both intelligence committees and the FBI in exchange for a guarantee he would not be subjected to “unfair prosecution,” as outlined in a statement from his lawyer. So far, of the entities have accepted his offer.
Flynn’s request has put him under especially intense scrutiny, given his comments last year about the partial immunity that aides to then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton received regarding the former secretary of state’s use of a private email server while she served. Flynn told NBC’s Chuck Todd in September that “when you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime.”
Trump echoed similar sentiment during a Florida rally that same month when he said, “If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?”
In a Thursday statement, Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, said the ousted national security adviser “certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”
“Notwithstanding his life of national service, the media are awash with unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo directed against him,” Kelner wrote. “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, with hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution,” he continued.”
Trump voiced his opinion Friday morning, saying Flynn is right to seek immunity.
“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 tweeted.
Flynn was ousted in February after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to Trump’s inauguration.
Several other Trump associates or campaign officials, such as Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page, have volunteered to be interviewed by Schiff’s committee.
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