Friday, March 31, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He changed his stance on what it means to seek immunity from criminal prosecution.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn was seeking immunity in exchange for his testimony in the ongoing Russia investigations. Flynn's lawyer said that he had "a story to tell" but required immunity in order to avoid malicious prosecution. Echoing this theme in a tweet this morning, Trump declared that Flynn "should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems."

This is something of a change of heart for Trump, who--like Flynn himself--previously took immunity deals as an indicator of wrongdoing. When the subject was his political opponents in 2016, Trump maintained that "[t]he reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong. If they didn’t do anything wrong, then no reason.”

Trump's previous stance is much more widely held than his revised opinion. Even staunch Trump supporters like Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) were uneasy about Trump weighing in. Chaffetz called Flynn's actions "very mysterious." According to NBC News, the Senate Intelligence Committee today rejected Flynn's offer. Flynn may now be compelled to testify, but could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the absence of a grant of immunity.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's difficult to believe that Trump fears unfair prosecution from Democrats, who control neither the Justice Department nor either house of Congress. 
  • It's bad if a president's opinions are determined only by what will help or hurt him.