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

In Russia scandal, top former Trump aide pleads the 5th

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal isn’t breaking any speed records, but it’s incrementally moving forward. NBC News reports today, for example, that Paul Manafort and Roger Stone have turned over documents related to the probe, per the committee’s request.

Michael Flynn, on the other hand, is pursuing a different course. The Associated Press reported this afternoon:
President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination on Monday and declined to hand over documents sought under subpoena by a Senate panel investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

In a letter to the Senate intelligence committee, Flynn’s attorneys justified the decision by citing an “escalating public frenzy against him” and saying the Justice Department’s recent appointment of a special counsel has created a legally dangerous environment for him to cooperate with the panel’s investigation.
The committee’s leaders will now have to consider its next move, including the option of moving forward with a vote to hold Flynn in contempt of Congress. In theory, that could lead to a criminal charge.

But the short-term political problem for the White House is less ambiguous. Not only will Flynn’s refusal to cooperate detract from the president’s efforts to change the subject with his overseas trip, there’s also the litany of quotes from Trump World about the dubiousness of those who take full advantage of their Fifth Amendment rights.

Trump, for example, told voters before the election, “The mob takes the Fifth Amendment. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” The Republican also said, “When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they are not prosecuted … I think it is disgraceful.”

Sean Spicer, before he became White House press secretary, asked why someone would take the Fifth if they “have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide?”

Team Trump has not yet explained if Trump and his chief spokesperson still believe this, but I’ll look forward to their explanation.

Donald Trump, Scandals and White House

In Russia scandal, top former Trump aide pleads the 5th