President Trump on Friday urged his former top adviser, Michael Flynn, to seek an immunity deal from Congress, after news broke late Thursday that Flynn was seeking such a deal. Trump said Flynn should cut a deal because the entire thing is “a witch hunt” that ostensibly won't lead anywhere.
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
Trump used to have a very different take on immunity deals.
It wasn't long ago that Trump seemed to believe such deals signaled guilt and were a very bad thing for a certain presidential candidate.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016
And here's Trump in late September: “The reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong. If they didn't do anything wrong, they don't think in terms of immunity. Five people. Folks, I'm telling you: Nobody's seen anything like this in our country's history.”
And at another September rally: "If you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?"
Joining him in that belief was Flynn himself, then a top surrogate who would later become Trump's national security adviser before resigning over his talks with the Russian ambassador to Washington. Some argue that Flynn's discussion of sanctions with Sergey Kislyak before Trump's inauguration may have broken an old law that prohibits unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign powers in disputes with the United States. (It's not clear if this is why Flynn is seeking immunity; he's also recently faced serious questions about his failure to disclose his work for the government of Turkey.)
“When you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime,” Flynn said in September on NBC's “Meet the Press.”
And then there's White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who suggested during the campaign that one particular immunity deal for a Clinton staffer was Very Bad News for Clinton.
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) September 9, 2015
But it's merely the latest example of people from Trump's orbit — and Trump himself — suggesting that situations like the one they find themselves in could not be countenanced in a presidential candidate, or a president.
Trump and his team also suggested that the mere prospect of a president being under investigation was unacceptable. Back then, of course, it was Hillary Clinton and her email server; now it's an FBI probe into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia.
Here's what Trump said in the closing days of the campaign:
- “If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis that would cripple the operations of our government. She is likely to be under investigation for many years, and also it will probably end up — in my opinion — in a criminal trial.” (Nov. 3 in New Hampshire)
- “She is likely to be under investigation for a long time, concluding in a criminal trial — our president. America deserves a government that can go to work on day one and get it done.” (Nov. 4 in New Hampshire)
- "[Democratic consultant Doug] Schoen warns that if Hillary is elected, she would be under protracted criminal investigation and probably a criminal trial, I will say. So we'd have a criminal trial for a sitting president. In the meantime Putin, who she likes to say bad things about, and all of the other leaders — many of whom she says bad things about, then you wonder why the world hates us — but all of these people will sit back and they will laugh and they will smile. The investigation will last for years. The trial would probably start, nothing will get done.” (Oct. 31 in Michigan)
Trump also didn't seem to think it was a good idea for President Barack Obama to endorse someone under investigation:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2016
Here's Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), shortly before Election Day: “Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?” (The audience replied: “No!") Rubio added: “Think of the trauma that would do to this country.”
And then there are these tweets from Trump advisers:
Most honest people I know are not under FBI investigation, let alone two. https://t.co/UcSmSA5aTj
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) October 29, 2016
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) October 14, 2015
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) February 20, 2016
No two situations are identical, of course. The Trump team will argue that the investigation of Clinton more clearly focused on her personal wrongdoing. But Trump's administration is now a focal point of an FBI investigation, and one of his closest advisers is seeking an immunity deal.
It's starting to look a whole lot like the scenario Trump and his campaign warned you about if the other candidate had won.