Michael Flynn’s attorney says the former U.S. national security adviser is in discussions with the House and Senate intelligence committees on receiving immunity from “unfair prosecution” in exchange for questioning.
Robert Kelner says no “reasonable person” with legal counsel would answer questions without assurances.
Flynn was fired from his job as President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser after it was disclosed that he misled the vice-president about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the transition.
Flynn’s ties to Russia have been scrutinized by the FBI and are under investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees.
‘Propoganda on steroids’
Earlier in the day, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate intelligence committee accused Russia on Thursday of mounting a campaign of “propaganda on steroids” seeking to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and listed several areas of concern about possible links to Republican Donald Trump’s campaign.
“I will not prejudge the outcome of our investigation,” Senator Mark Warner told a rare public intelligence committee hearing on alleged Russian efforts to influence elections.
“We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire, but so far there is a great, great deal of smoke.”
Warner said he wants Trump to uncover Russian activities during the election, but he chastised the president for what he called “wild and uncorroborated accusations” that his campaign was wiretapped.
Lawmakers heading the committee are focusing squarely on Russia’s attempts at undermining the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Senator Ron Wyden is imploring the committee to “follow the money” on Russia. The Oregon Democrat said fishy real estate deals and money laundering might mean that the “Russian government may be only a step or two away” from American institutions.
Clint Watts, with the Foreign Policy Research Institute Program on National Security, suggested that the committee also “follow the dead bodies.” He said several Russians tied to the investigation into Kremlin disinformation activities have been killed in the past three months — not only in Russia, but in Western countries as well.
New information about interference
Thursday afternoon, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer invited the top Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence panels to review new material relevant to the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election.
“There has been information … material that has … come to light, and that we want to make sure that the people who are conducting the review have that information,” Spicer told reporters without giving details about the information.
“We have invited them up to view it in a classified setting,” he said, referring to the Republican chairs and Democratic ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
Later Thursday, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee accepted the invitation, but said he doesn’t know if the information is the same as what was reviewed by Republican Devin Nunes, the committee chairman.
Representative Adam Schiff said the White House’s handling of the materials raises “profound questions,” noting that White House staff has no reason to pass information to a congressional committee chairman rather than just delivering it directly to the president.
Accusations ‘groundless,’ says Putin
Earlier Thursday, Putin again dismissed what he called “endless and groundless” accusations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, describing them as part of the U.S. domestic political struggle. He also said he is ready to meet with Trump at an upcoming Arctic summit.
The hearing Thursday was to address how the Kremlin allegedly uses technology to spread disinformation in the U.S. and Europe. Warner and the panel’s chairman, Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, provided an update Wednesday on the committee’s investigation into activities Russia might have taken to alter or influence the 2016 election and whether there were any campaign contacts with Russian government officials that might have interfered with the election process.
Pledging co-operation, Burr and Warner said they would steer clear of politics in their panel’s probe of Russian meddling. They made a point of putting themselves at arm’s length from the House investigation that has been marked by partisanship and disputes.
Calls for Nunes to step down
Democrats have called for Nunes to recuse himself because of his ties to the Trump team, especially because the investigation includes looking at contacts that Russians had with Trump’s associates.
Nunes, a California Republican, met with a secret source on the White House grounds last week to review classified material, which he says indicates that Trump associates’ communications were captured in “incidental” surveillance of foreigners. Nunes says he sees no reason to step aside.