Former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn is in discussions with the House and Senate intelligence committees on receiving immunity from “unfair prosecution” in exchange for agreeing to be questioned as part of probes into possible contacts between President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, his attorney says.

“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” attorney Robert Kelner said Thursday.

Kelner said no “reasonable person” with legal counsel would answer questions without assurances that he would not be prosecuted, given calls from some members of Congress that the retired lieutenant general should face criminal charges.

In his statement, Kelner said the political climate in which Flynn is facing “claims of treason and vicious innuendo” is factoring into his negotiations with the committees. 

“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,” Kelner said. 

USA-TRUMP/FLYNN-KREMLIN

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits next to Flynn at an event in Russia in 2015. The U.S. Senate, House and FBI are investigating allegations of links between Russia and the 2016 Trump election campaign. (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin/Reuters)

Flynn’s ties to Russia have been scrutinized by the FBI and are under investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees. Both committees are looking into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin.

A government official with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters that lawyers for Flynn raised the immunity request roughly 10 days ago with representatives of the Senate committee. Officials told them the committee was not interested in any immunity discussions at that time.

Testimony from Flynn could help shed light on the conversations he had last year with Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States, while serving as national security adviser for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in February for failing to disclose talks with Kislyak about U.S. sanctions on Moscow and misleading Vice-President Mike Pence about the conversations, which occurred before Trump took office.

Trump on Friday supported the decision of his former national security adviser 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 wrote in a tweet.

Senator Angus King, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said it was too soon to discuss immunity for Flynn. He also criticized Trump’s remarks.

“This is not a witch hunt,” King, an independent, told CNN. “This is an effort to get to the truth of some very important questions. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Russians were behind an effort to interfere in our elections. To continue to deny that — it just flies in the face of all of the reality.”

FBI investigation began in July

Since July, the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference in the election and possible co-ordination with Trump associates.

Kelner released a statement after the Wall Street Journal first reported that Flynn’s negotiations with the committee included discussions of immunity. The lawyer described the talks as ongoing and said he would not comment on the details.

‘When you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime.’
– Michael Flynn on Hillary Clinton last year

A congressional aide confirmed that discussions with the Senate intelligence committee involved immunity.

House intelligence committee spokesman Jack Langer said Flynn has not offered to testify to the panel in exchange for immunity.

Flynn: ‘When you are given immunity…you’ve probably committed a crime’0:23

Four other Trump associates have come forward in recent weeks, saying they would talk to the committees. As of Wednesday, the Senate intelligence committee had asked to interview 20 people as part of the probe.

In September, Flynn weighed in on the implications of immunity on NBC’s Meet the Press, criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her associates in the FBI’s investigation into her use of a private email server.

“When you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime,” Flynn said during the interview.

Nunes under fire for White House briefing

Trump also faces new questions about political interference in the investigations into alleged Russian election meddling following reports that White House officials secretly funnelled material to the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Representative Devin Nunes. Nunes is leading one of three investigations into whether Russia tried to influence the campaign and whether Trump associates were involved.

The House committee’s work has been deeply, and perhaps irreparably, undermined by Nunes’ apparent co-ordination with the White House. He told reporters last week that he had seen troubling information about the improper distribution of Trump associates’ intercepted communications, and he briefed the president on the material, all before informing Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat.

Speaking on Capitol Hill Thursday, Schiff said he was “more than willing” to accept the White House offer to view new information. But he raised concerns that Trump officials may have used Nunes to “launder information to our committee to avoid the true source.”

“The White House has a lot of questions to answer,” he declared.

Trying to fend off the growing criticism, Trump’s top lawyer invited lawmakers from both parties to view classified information at the White House. The invitation came as the New York Times reported that two White House officials — including an aide whose job was recently saved by Trump — were the sources who secretly helped Nunes examine intelligence information there last week.

The Times reported that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the White House National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a White House lawyer who previously worked on the House intelligence committee, played roles in helping Nunes view the materials.

Cohen-Watnick is among about a dozen White House officials who would have access to the types of classified information Nunes says he viewed, according to current and former U.S. officials. He’s become a controversial figure in intelligence circles, but Trump decided to keep him on over the objections of the CIA and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, according to the officials. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly by name.

Cohen-Watnick and Nunes both served on the Trump transition team.

Stephen Slick, a former CIA and NSC official, said it would be “highly unusual and likely unprecedented” for a member of Congress to travel to the White House to view intelligence reports “without prior authorization.”

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