Calling the probe over his team’s alleged ties with Russia an opposition “witch hunt”, US President Donald Trump has strongly defended his former top aide Michael Flynn, who is seeking immunity in the case.
Flynn, who is also Trump’s ex-national security advisor, is among the focus of probe for his alleged links to Russia. He has sought protection in exchange for his testimony to the FBI and congressional committees.
While Flynn’s lawyer has said his client has “a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit’, the two key committees in the probe, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have suggested the immunity proposal was premature.
Trump nevertheless encouraged Flynn’s move in a tweet that appeared to lay down a challenge.
“Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”
Flynn’s offer to testify under protection from prosecution suggests he has more to reveal about the Russia affair.
He could be a key witness as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Congress seek to determine whether Trump advisors colluded with Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.
A close advisor to Trump’s 2016 campaign, Flynn was forced to step down from his White House job in February after misleading the vice president about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after the election.
He is also in focus over receiving USD 33,000 from Russian television RT to attend a 2015 gala in Moscow where he sat with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and USD 530,000 from Turkey for lobbying services.
But Flynn is not the only member of Trump’s advisors to have had contacts with Russia during the campaign. Investigators want to know whether there was any collusion between them and Moscow’s concerted effort last year to hurt Trump’s Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.
Asking for immunity, said criminal lawyer Mark Bennett on Twitter, is “a reasonable stance for someone to take even if she hasn’t done anything wrong — especially where… the grand jury’s investigation appears to have political overtones.”
Alex Whiting, a Harvard Law School professor writing on the Just Security website, said Flynn’s offer to testify in exchange for immunity was “not a serious offer,” suggesting it was rather a tactical move.
(With inputs from Agencies)