Michael Flynn attends a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington, DC, USA, 10 February 2017. 
JIM LO SCALZO/EPA

Fired Trump aide seeks immunity deal, jolting political world

The White House’s line on former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has never really made sense. Donald Trump fired him, we’ve been told, because Flynn lied about communications with Russia, but the president inexplicably waited several weeks to show Flynn the door after learning of his alleged misdeeds.

At a press conference a few days later, Trump seemed to suggest Flynn did nothing wrong, which is generally not a posture someone takes soon after dismissing an aide.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/30/17, 9:00 PM ET

Flynn testimony offer jolts Trump Russia investigation

Shane Harris, senior writer for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about breaking news that disgraced Donald Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has offered to testify in the Russia investigation in exchange for immunity.
Shane Harris, senior writer for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about breaking news that disgraced Donald Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has offered to testify in the Russia investigation in exchange for immunity.
Late yesterday, as you may have heard, the controversy surrounding Flynn took a rather unexpected turn.
Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn has told the Senate Intelligence Committee he is willing to be interviewed about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia in return for immunity from prosecution, a Congressional official told NBC News.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Flynn had told the FBI and Congress he was willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity.
Note, we’re not talking about unverified reports based on accounts from unnamed sources: Flynn’s own lawyer released a statement that said the former National Security Advisor is seeking immunity from prosecution from Congress. “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it,” attorney Robert Kelner wrote.

One of the many reasons the developments have jolted the political world is the nature of immunity deals: as a rule, people agree to testify against higher-ups as part of an agreement with prosecutors and/or investigators. When it’s the former White House National Security Advisor seeking a deal, there’s a limited universe of individuals above him in the hierarchy.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/30/17, 9:28 PM ET

Case against 'higher ups' considered in Flynn immunity request

Congressman Jim Himes, member of the House Intelligence Committee, talks with Rachel Maddow about what it would mean to grant immunity the Mike Flynn in exchange for testimony and what considerations would go into granting such immunity.
Congressman Jim Himes, member of the House Intelligence Committee, talks with Rachel Maddow about what it would mean to grant immunity the Mike Flynn in exchange for testimony and what considerations would go into granting such immunity.
That said, it’s too soon to say whether anything will come of this or not. Maybe Flynn’s story isn’t as interesting as he thinks it is, and no one will offer him immunity. Perhaps Flynn has important information, but investigators will conclude they can obtain the same information through other means. Maybe Flynn doesn’t have anything of value to share, and he’s seeking a deal out of desperation.

But if Flynn does have important secrets worth sharing, and he “very much wants to” get some valuable information off his chest, the Russia scandal may soon become even more interesting.

Complicating matters, at least politically, is the rhetorical record from Trump and his team. In the fall, in the weeks leading up to Election Day, Trump focused on Clinton aides who’d sought immunity as a major scandal. The Trump campaign specifically pointed to immunity deals as evidence of “a criminal scheme.”

Flynn himself told NBC News in September, “When you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime.”

Around the same time, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, at the time the RNC’s communications director, seemed especially excited after the aide who set up Hillary Clinton’s email server considered an immunity deal. “Get your popcorn,” Spicer said at the time.

It’s a sentiment worth keeping in mind as the Flynn developments continue to unfold.

Postscript: The Wall Street Journal’s report added that Flynn is seeking immunity from both Congress and the FBI. As modern history has shown, it’s an important detail.