The Short Version: Michael Flynn's Immunity Request
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In a recent iterations of The Short Version, Cleo Abram wondered out loud if the Democrats should filibuster the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination and now, should Michael Flynn be granted immunity from prosecution in order to testify on the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia?
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Michael Flynn has publicly requested immunity. After serving as a high-level campaign advisor, Flynn was President Trump’s first National Security Advisor for only three weeks before resigning amid legal and ethical questions around his communication with Russian officials—in particular with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Now, he is at the center of investigations by FBI and both the House and Senate intelligence committees into Russian interference in the election. Flynn’s communications are one important piece to answer the question: Did the Trump campaign coordinate with Russia to impact the election? If so, in what way?
“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should circumstances permit,” reads Flynn’s lawyer’s public statement.
Why is it important?
This investigation is the most high-stakes scandal of the Trump administration so far. If the allegations about Trump-Russia collusion are true, it is a national crisis of Watergate proportions—that the now-president coordinated with a hostile foreign power to win the election.
It is possible Flynn has information about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia. If so, granting him immunity could help the FBI and intelligence committees find out what happened and who was involved.
But it is also possible that this is a legal stunt to persuade members of Congress to grant Flynn immunity by offering testimony that won’t help the investigation at all.
If you were requesting immunity, there are two kinds you could pursue: “transactional” immunity and “use” immunity. Transactional immunity is the TV-show type—the “we promise not to prosecute you as long as you agree to testify in court against a bigger target” kind. Transactional immunity is usually negotiated privately through the FBI, not announced publicly by your lawyers, as Flynn’s have done. Use immunity, however, is granted by congressional committees with a two-thirds vote. It means that “nothing the person says when testifying before the committee can be used against them at trial.” Use immunity is more public—by announcing the request like Flynn’s lawyers did and drumming up public pressure, you could persuade members of Congress to grant it. The question is, should Flynn get either?
Should Michael Flynn be granted immunity from prosecution in order to testify on the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia?
More about Cleo Abram here:
Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.
Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.
Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.
She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.
Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.
Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.
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