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Evan Vucci / AP

When the Wall Street Journal broke the news last week that former national security advisor Michael Flynn was offering to testify on Russia in exchange for immunity, many commentators were quick to assume it meant he'd become a turncoat — prepared to reveal highly damaging information about President Trump in order to save himself.

A smart piece explains why the reality is probably the precise opposite. Writing at the blog "Just Security," Alex Whiting, a Harvard Law professor who's previously worked at the International Criminal Court, says the fact that Flynn's lawyer made the plea so publicly suggests he's not willing to reveal a single thing of consequence.

Highlights from Whiting's article:

  • "Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner of Covington & Burling... tweeted out a statement teasing that 'General Flynn certainly has a story tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit'...As an experienced lawyer, Kelner will know that the Justice Department would never grant immunity for testimony on these terms.
  • "Prosecutors would first require that Flynn submit to what's called a proffer session in which Flynn would agree to tell everything he knows in exchange for the prosecutors agreeing not to use his statement against him. Only after the prosecutors heard what Flynn could offer in terms of evidence against others, and had an opportunity to assess his credibility, would they be willing to discuss any grants of immunity or a cooperation deal.
  • "The fact that Flynn and his lawyer have made his offer publicly suggests that he has nothing good to give the prosecutors (either because he cannot incriminate others or is unwilling to do so).
  • "If he had something good, Flynn and his lawyer would approach the prosecutors quietly, go through the proffer process in confidence, and reach a deal. Why? Because prosecutors have an interest in keeping their investigation secret, and Flynn's lawyer knows that.
  • "The last thing Flynn's lawyer would do if he thought he had the goods would be to go public, because that would potentially compromise the criminal inquiry and would certainly irritate the prosecutors, the very people Flynn's lawyer would be trying to win over.

Between the lines: Whiting says he suspects Flynn's lawyer is really targeting Congress. "He is hoping that one of the Congressional committees will take the bait and grant him immunity in exchange for his testimony."

Flynn's dream legal scenario: "[He] gets immunity, his testimony in Congress gets aired and reported everywhere, and it becomes virtually impossible for prosecutors to bring a case against him."

What Whiting bets will happen: "It is not going to work. The Justice Department will tell Congress that a grant of immunity at this stage could compromise its ongoing criminal investigation."

Go deeper

Updated 47 mins ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

The latest: Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Hollywood union reaches deal with studios to avert strike

Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A Hollywood workers' union reached a tentative deal with studios, networks and streamers that will guarantee better working conditions, meal breaks and increased wages for low-paid workers, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Saturday night.

Why it matters: The deal, which still needs to be ratified by IATSE members, will avert a nationwide strike by film and television workers that was set to start Monday. It would have been the first strike in the union's 128-year history.

Bill Clinton released from hospital following treatment for non-COVID infection

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was discharged from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted for a non-COVID-related infection, according to his spokesperson Angel Ureña.

What they're saying: "His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," wrote Dr. Alpesh Amin, who has been overseeing the team of doctors treating Clinton. "On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to have treated him and will continue to monitor his progress."

Worth noting: Clinton had a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, per CNN.

  • The California-based medical team had been administering IV antibiotics and fluids, and was in constant communication with Clinton's New York team, including his cardiologist, according to the former president's physicians.
  • President Biden spoke by phone with Clinton on Friday to see how he was doing, and the catch-up included a discussion of recent politics.