On Thursday evening, when the news broke that Michael Flynn, the recently-canned national security adviser, offered testimony to House and Senate investigators in exchange for immunity from prosecution, the excitement in political circles was palpable. Twitter exploded and pundits on cable news shows were practically vibrating with excitement at the possibility that Flynn would soon be spilling his guts over what, exactly, he knows about the connections between Donald Trump and Russian intelligence services that were behind the various email hacks of Democratic Party members, which may in turn have influenced the outcome of the 2016 election.
But Friday morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee — which, unlike their Rep. Devin Nunes-led counterpart in the House, actually seems to be taking this investigation seriously — rejected Flynn's request.
"A senior congressional official with direct knowledge said Flynn's lawyer was told it was 'wildly preliminary' and that immunity was 'not on the table' at the moment," reports NBC News. "A second source said the committee communicated that it is 'not receptive' to Flynn's request 'at this time.'"
While it's exciting to imagine Flynn getting behind a desk and spilling all sorts of dirty secrets about the Trump administration, I believe the Senate Intelligence Committee was right not to snap up this offer. I would also advise that my fellow liberals suck an ice cube, cool their jets and not freak out on congressional and intelligence officials, demanding they take Flynn's offer. We are all impatient to get to the bottom of this Russia scandal, but that's all the more reason to slow down. This needs to be done right, and that means it will take time.
To be blunt, something about this offer doesn't smell right. For one thing, the fact that this offer was leaked is a big red flag, raising the possibility that Flynn's legal team wanted the story to come out precisely so that there would be public pressure on authorities to take the deal. Then there is the vagueness of the offer, which could set investigators up to offer a lot and get nothing truly substantial in return.
Oh, and then there was this:
It's fun to laugh at Trump, who sounds like he doesn't really understand what "immunity" is. But there's a darker possibility, which is that Trump is confident that the deal that's on offer, as it stands, is a crappy one that will not actually result in Flynn giving up the goods to the authorities. Trump's not a subtle man. On the contrary, his public record suggests he's someone who thinks he can just bark demands and have them met. The fact that he is openly calling on investigators to take the deal is, by itself, an excellent reason not to take it.
If there is a strategy from Flynn and Trump's camps to increase pressure on investigators, it's working. Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, who were the ethics lawyers for George W. Bush and Barack Obama respectively, have an op-ed in Friday's New York Times calling for investigators to take Flynn's deal.
"This is the latest development in a scandal more frightening than Watergate because it involves a foreign adversary attacking the American political system," they write. "We need to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible."
The headline reads, "Trump Is Right: Give Michael Flynn Immunity." And while both Painter and Eisen are smart men that are generally good at their jobs, both of them should take a moment to really think about the words "Trump is right."
Trump isn't right. Even when he gets something factually correct, it's almost always by accident and not a deliberate choice. But on issues of ethics and what's right to do, Trump is categorically incapable of being right.
Trump is only capable of being venal and self-interested. He does or says that isn't aimed directly at that goal. So when he says that he wants Flynn to get immunity, then that's all the more reason to view Flynn's request skeptically. Trump almost certainly wouldn't say that if he didn't think it benefited him in some way.
We don't know what's going on, of course, but what we do know is that Trump really wants investigators to take Flynn's deal. When the guy you're investigating recommends a course of action in your investigation, that's a bad sign. That goes double when the guy you're investigating is morally bankrupt and thoroughly corrupt.
Maybe Flynn will offer a better deal down the road, but right now, what he's offering doesn't look so great. Maybe it's painful to let go of the liberal fantasy that Trump will go down easily, or soon. But patience is the right course now.