Impinging upon a congressional investigation for the second time this week, President Donald Trump backed his former national security adviser’s quest for immunity in return for testimony before lawmakers.
The president tweeted Friday morning that Michael Flynn, the retired three-star general who was fired by the Obama administration then forced to leave the Trump White House at the start of its fourth week, should seek the legal protection because the probes into ties between Russia and his campaign associates is a “witch hunt” being conducted by the media and Democrats “of historic proportion.”
For Trump, the tweet appeared an attempt to do two things: Give his former top aide, who some have said was among Trump’s closest campaign staffers, backing in his effort to be shielded from anything revealed during his testimony; and cast further doubts among his supporters in investigations of Russia’s 2016 election meddling being carried out by the House and Senate Intelligence committees.
Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2017
It came a day after Flynn reportedly asked the panels for immunity should he testify.
Trump decided in mid-February to ask for Flynn’s resignation after determining he could no longer trust his top security adviser after he misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about his talks with Moscow’s ambassador to the U.S. before the Trump administration took power on Jan. 20. Flynn quit the White House on the evening of Feb. 13.
It was the second time in five days that Trump has used a morning social media post to weigh in on the intelligence panels’ probes.
On Monday night, the president used a twitter storm to criticize the House committee’s investigation into Russian meddling by question why the panel is not examining a decision that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, was involved in that “allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.”
Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2017
He also suggested the House Intelligence Committee look into the former secretary of state’s work for President Barack Obama as part of his failed “reset” of relations with Moscow, as well as former President Bill Clinton’s paid speeches in Russia.
Like on Monday night, Trump appears to have few — if any — concerns that presidential statements of any kind could taint the eventual results of one or both of the congressional probes.
Presidents before him have sought to avoid commenting on such investigations, leery of any perceptions that they might be using the powers of the office to influence sensitive endeavors of the legislative branch. To that end, Trump’s top spokesman, Sean Spicer, has cited the “separation of powers” concept when declining to answer reporters’ questions about the House and Senate investigations.
His boss, however, has had few such proclivities.
For instance, on Monday night he dubbed the “Trump Russia story” a “hoax,” implying the committees’ probes are unnecessary.
On Thursday, Spicer dismissed notions that recent disclosures that White House officials slipped embattled House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., intelligence information intended to influence his probe, and reports about Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign boss, once worked secretly to advance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests.
Flynn also should have registered as a “foreign agent” with the Justice Department before taking the White House job due to work he did as a consultant for the Turkish government. He reportedly got paid by the Turkish government while also working for the Trump campaign.
Trump also has accused Obama of ordering surveillance of Trump Tower during the campaign and subsequent transition period; an allegation immediatelydebunked by senior federal law enforcement and intelligence officials.
Spicer replied simply “no” when asked whether the numerous disclosures make an independent panel to look into the Russia issue necessary.
“I think you have two committees looking into this,” Spicer said. “The FBI’s been looking into this. …. I mean, how many do you want?”
Last week, the White House press secretary would not say there are no other foreign agents under the employ of the Trump administration.
“I can’t prevent somebody from fully disclosing everything on their taxes of filling out a form,” Spicer said. “What I can tell you is if there is an instance brought to our attention where someone has misled it, either they will be sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency, or appropriate action will be taken.”