It's the beginning of the week, and the breaking news mill on the Trump-Russia scandal is already picking up speed again. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that former national security advisor Michael Flynn will plead the fifth to avoid complying with a subpoena issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. He will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights to protect himself against self-incrimination, which allows him to refuse to submit the documents that the Senate committee demanded.
The Senate Intelligence Committee requested documents relating to the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia on April 28, which Flynn and his lawyer refused to submit. Last week, Reuters reported that there had been at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails between Flynn or various other Trump campaign officials and either Russian officials or people with Kremlin ties during the campaign in 2016. The Senate Intelligence Committee was requesting documents covering all of Flynn's contact with Russian officials between June of 2015 and January of 2017.
In the past, both Donald Trump and Flynn himself have suggested that pleading the fifth amounts to an admission of guilt, at least when it relates to Hillary Clinton staffers. Back in March, Flynn also asked for immunity in exchange for his testimony — another move that Trump once criticized.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation is one of the main ones into the Trump campaign's Russian contacts, and Flynn would be providing some of the main documentation and testimony. He spoke to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., several times after the election in an effort to set up a back channel that would make it easier for Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin to communicate. The Trump administration then brought Flynn into the fold at the White House even though they knew that he was the subject of a federal investigation because of his paid lobbying activity for Turkey.
He then retained his position as national security advisor for 24 days, despite the fact that the Trump administration had been warned that he might be vulnerable to blackmail. CNN also reported on Friday that Russia officials had discussed how they could use Flynn to exert influence on Trump, something that American intelligence officials intercepted during the 2016 campaign. When it comes to the Trump-Russian investigation, Flynn has proved to be a person of great interest.
According to Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate still has options regarding Flynn, but they're not ready to go public on how they'll proceed next. There are numerous ways of forcing Flynn to comply with the subpoena, including detaining him until he complies or handing him over to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation, which they could turn to should it prove necessary.