The confusion and contradictory statements about whether Gen. Michael Flynn’s purported immunity deal over allegations of Russian involvement with the Trump campaign appear to be the result of a trial balloon floated publicly by Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner of Covington & Burling.
Word on Friday afternoon is that Flynn will not be getting any immunity deal and Fox News, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) called the proposal “very mysterious.”
NEW: Immunity for Flynn is "not on the table," a senior Hill source tells @KenDilanianNBC, and immunity request was denied.
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) March 31, 2017
— The Hill (@thehill) March 31, 2017
Meanwhile, many people who tried to follow the news on Thursday are still confused about what really happened — was Flynn trying to make a deal? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
The confusion stems Flynn’s lawyer not seeming to have made the immunity offer—yet—but instead dropping a public statement at nearly the same time as the initial Wall Street Journalstory broke claiming Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity. The WSJ story states that Flynn spoke to “officials:”
Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.
However, the idea that Flynn was SEEKING a deal is not the same thing as his attorney ASKING for one yet.The Populist was given the following statement on Friday by Jack Langer, the Director of Communications for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:
HPSCI had a preliminary conversation with Michael Flynn’s lawyer about arranging for Flynn to speak to the Committee. The discussions did not include immunity or other possible conditions for his appearance.
Timeline Clarifies Confusion
A timeline is relevant here to understand what happened to create the confusion.
At 5:28pm Thursday, Steve Kopack, who does social media CNBC’s breaking news desk, tweeted out that the Dow Jones (parent company of the Wall Street Journal) was reporting on the immunity deal.
Breaking from Dow Jones: Flynn tells FBI & Congress he's "willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution"
— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) March 30, 2017
The WSJ tweeted the story out at 6:03
Mike Flynn has told the FBI and congressional officials he is willing to testify in exchange for immunity https://t.co/RTSXOS9cB5
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) March 30, 2017
Quickly, many outlets had picked up the story and many on the left were licking their chops believing that Flynn had “flipped” on President Trump.
Impeach Trump NOW & Have New Elections!! Flynn Asked For Immunity In Exchange For Testifying On Trump's Russia Ties https://t.co/4ORxbovnmw
— #TheResistance (@stockguy61) March 30, 2017
At 6:25pm Thursday night, Gen. Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner tweeted out the following statement, which implied an immunity deal was being sought due to a “witch hunt.”
A statement by counsel to General Flynn. pic.twitter.com/JQs90OI2OY
— Robert Kelner (@robkelner) March 30, 2017
There were seemingly conflicting reports that seemed to contradict the WSJ report, something also reported by Lou Dobbs on his FOXNews show:
— *Wendy* 🇺🇸 (@wendyvoss) March 30, 2017
Meanwhile, the carefully parsed statement by Flynn’s attorney didn’t really clarify things, although it didn’t rule immunity out, either.
Why Float the Immunity Deal Story?
As Alex Whiting wrote at Just Security in an articled titled Flynn’s Public Offer to Testify for Immunity Suggests He May Have Nothing to Say, “The fact that Flynn and his lawyer have made his offer publicly suggests that he has nothing good to give the prosecutors (either because he cannot incriminate others or is unwilling to do so). If he had something good, Flynn and his lawyer would approach the prosecutors quietly, go through the proffer process in confidence, and reach a deal.”
Whiting goes on to explain:
As an experienced lawyer, Kelner will know that the Justice Department would never grant immunity for testimony on these terms. Prosecutors would first require that Flynn submit to what’s called a proffer session in which Flynn would agree to tell everything he knows in exchange for the prosecutors agreeing not to use his statement against him. Only after the prosecutors heard what Flynn could offer in terms of evidence against others, and had an opportunity to assess his credibility, would they be willing to discuss any grants of immunity or a cooperation deal. At a minimum, the prosecutors would require Flynn’s lawyer to make a proffer outlining the information that Flynn could provide.
This sort of analysis and the idea that Flynn may not, in fact, have any big secrets doesn’t fit the Democrat or mainstream media narrative, so the public suffered with contradictory information…and no end to the confusion in sight.