The president of the United States tweeted Friday morning that his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, should ask for immunity to testify to congressional investigators.
But that apparently doesn't mean Trump thinks Flynn should be given that immunity. Somehow.
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
White House press secretary Sean Spicer took that football and punted it right back to the White House press corps on Friday afternoon, in what was a pretty amazing exchange with CBS's Major Garrett. Garrett pressed Spicer on that question, given the White House often complains about Trump's tweets being misinterpreted and not allowed to “speak for themselves.”
And technically, Trump didn't say Flynn should get immunity — only that he should ask for it. So good on Garrett for asking for specificity.
He got none, however. Instead, Spicer merely said the White House wanted to do what it takes to allow Flynn to testify.
Here's the exchange, in pieces:
GARRETT: When the president says Mike Flynn should get immunity, is he suggesting to Congress that it grant immunity?
SPICER: I think Mike Flynn and his legal counsel should do what's appropriate for Mike Flynn.
Deflection No. 1.
GARRETT: Right, but they cannot obtain immunity; it must be granted. Is the president recommending — either to the FBI or to Congress — that it grant immunity? Because that's the only way it can happen.
SPICER: I understand that. But again, he didn't say, 'Congress should grant.'
So he doesn't think it should be granted?
GARRETT: That's why I'm asking. What does he mean by that?
SPICER: What he means is he supports Mike Flynn's attempts to go up to Congress and to be very clear with everything they ask and everything that they want.
Deflection No. 2/3.
GARRETT: Right. But he could have just said, 'Testify.' He said he should get immunity. … For the president to even lightly indicate that he is in favor of that, it seems to me, is a significant development. And I'm trying to find out if that's what the president was trying to accomplish.
SPICER: And I'm trying to answer the question, which is that I think what the — not that I think, I've talked to the president … and the president's very clear that he wants Mike Flynn to go and be completely open and transparent with the committee. And whatever it takes to do that, he's supportive of.
That didn't answer the question, really.
You could be forgiven for thinking the White House was walking back Trump's tweet and suddenly decided that giving Flynn immunity was a pretty bad idea.
After all, a former top adviser who may have broken two laws — one in his discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador and another by failing to disclose his work for the government of Turkey — could be a real liability. If a guy in that position cuts a deal to testify unencumbered by incriminating himself, it stands to reason that he might be offering something pretty juicy in return. That's why the president's tweet Friday morning seemed so odd.
But apparently the tweet was meant to be taken seriously, not literally.