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The I-word

Mar 31, 2017 By Steven R. Peck

Michael Flynn wants to talk, on one condition

It's never good public relations when the I-word is invoked during political troubles. But retired General Michael Flynn, he of the shortest term as national security advisor in American history, has done it. With investigations about the new presidential administration's backstage maneuvers with Russia during the 2016 election in high gear, Flynn says he will testify publicly on what he knows if - and only if - he is granted immunity from prosecution.

The I-word was criticized publicly by Donald Trump himself last year when he blasted former aides to Hillary Clinton for seeking immunity before talking about her use of a private e-mail server for official business when she was Secretary of State. Speaking derisively from a campaign stop in Wisconsin, Trump said "the reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong. If they didn't do anything wrong, they don't think in terms of immunity."

At about the same time, clearly milking a Trump campaign "talking point," a Trumpoperative made similar remarks during a television interview on "Meet the Press" at about the same time, also regarding the Clinton e-mail issue.

"When you're given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime," he said, scowling.

And who was that Trump campaigner echoing his boss's message on immunity? None other than Michael Flynn, the soon-to -be-discredited national security advisor, forced to resign last month after acknowledging that he lied about his discussions with Russian leaders, and who now is offering to testify - if he gets immunity.

Does this mean Flynn "did something wrong," to use the president's words? Does this mean Flynn "probably committed a crime," to use his own words?

No - but it sure doesn't look good.

On Friday, the president said something completely different, commending Flynn for seeking to protect himself during a "witch-hunt" environment. And Flynn's attorney is not wrong to say that nobody with responsible legal counsel should consider taking the stand on an issue such as Flynn's without seeking immunity.

Flynn might not testify at all. Or, he might testify with no consequences. Still, the specter of a high-ranking presidential appointee dropping the I-word is reminiscent of John Dean and Watergate, and of the officials of the Iran-Contra scandal who asked for immunity in exchange for damaging testimony.

The campaign zingers uttered by Trump and Flynn might not be completely accurate regarding criminality and immunity, but the immunity request almost certainly would not be made unless the requester had something highly combustible to say.

Odds are, Michael Flynn will get his chance.

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2017-10-18