WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on congressional intelligence panels said Friday it is too soon to consider a request for immunity by former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn’s in return for testifying on contacts between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
The members of the House and Senate committees conducting probes into Russian meddling in last year’s election said they have more to do before they can make that decision, and they do not want to interfere with the FBI’s investigation.
“There is still much work and many more witnesses and documents to obtain before any immunity request from any witness can be considered,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Schiff, meanwhile, went to the White House Friday to view classified and politically sensitive materials that might be the same information seen last week by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the House committee’s chairman and Trump ally.
The president’s counsel invited Schiff and Senate committee leaders to see the documents after The New York Times and Washington Post on Thursday reported that White House security and legal staffers had helped Nunes get the materials.
Amid questions about the White House role in providing the intel reports, Nunes declined to discuss his source for them.
The news reports prompted Democrats and critics to charge the White House secretly provided Nunes with information about surveillance that captured some Trump team conversations.
The president then said he felt that “somewhat justified” his March 4 tweets that President Barack Obama had put wiretaps on Trump Tower.
Schiff said in a statement that if the documents are the same as the ones seen by Nunes, the White House must “fully disclose” its role in concealing that it was source of documents that Nunes went to the White House to present to Trump.
On Friday, members of both congressional intelligence committees said they would like to question Flynn, who played a key role as a Trump campaign aide.
Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, said Thursday he had initiated talks with the committees but insisted on a grant of immunity in a “witch-hunt atmosphere” to avoid “unfair prosecution.”
“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” he said.
Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, said the House committee has “had a preliminary conversation” with Flynn’s lawyer but they didn’t discuss immunity or other conditions for his appearance.
A spokeswoman for the Senate committee declined to comment.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, “The president’s view is that that he should go up there [to Congress] and he should testify.”
He offered that explanation when reporters’ asked about Trump’s Friday morning tweet: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”
Trump fired Flynn, his first national security adviser, after Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.
After Flynn left the White House, he and his business registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent and reported payment of $530,000 for lobbying work that could have benefited the Turkish government.
The lobbying occurred while Flynn was a top Trump campaign adviser. The Turkish businessman who hired Flynn, Ekim Alptekin, has told the AP that Flynn’s firm registered under pressure from the Justice Department.
In September, Flynn weighed in on the implications of immunity on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her associates in the FBI’s investigation into her use of a private email server.
“When you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime,” Flynn said during the interview.
With The Associated Press