EDITORIAL: How important is immunity?

People will talk about Watergate and Benghazi for decades to come. All of the lies, headlines and trials will remain infamous as some of the most unsettling American mistakes. But we don’t ever seem to learn from them. How long will the topic of a foreign adversary attacking the American political system last in daily conversation? In the most recent case of an American calamity, a question of national security and the future of democracy is called into play, and it is a popular belief that we need to get to the bottom of this soon as possible.

Many questions remain, but one in particular seems to be attracting the most attention right now: Should we protect the guilty to gain more knowledge? Gen. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for one month, is seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony regarding the Trump campaign’s possible coordination with Russia. Although it’s customary for potential targets of an investigation to ask for immunity, it’s difficult to immediately extend possible protection for the man who led so many “lock her up” chants during Trump’s campaign and to put aside irony, retribution and pettiness to focus on security.

Some think that definitively rejecting Flynn’s offer, as the Senate Intelligence Committee did Friday, isn’t a bad idea.The other side, however, says there should be a careful review of the information and insight Flynn could provide in contrast to what might be uncovered about him. Those deliberating Flynn’s request must decide whether it is more important  to punish all those involved who may be guilty or uncover the truth, possibly more quickly and objectively, so they can protect the masses.

Maybe immunity can make sure that those who may have betrayed the United States are never in a position to do so again. If prosecutors are confident that Flynn has information for a criminal case against principle people in the alleged wrongdoing, maybe immunity should be granted.

However, the most important part of these decisions about the Trump-Russia investigation is that they should be made only by people who are completely independent of the investigation.

This includes: Trump, who directly encouraged the Russians to spy on his opponent; Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who also had contacts with the Russians that he was not truthful about and who recused himself from the investigations; and all of Trump’s appointees in the White House and in the Department of Justice.