No member of the Trump team should agree to testify without a grant of immunity. The risks of being trapped in procedure – even while completely innocent – are simply too great.
There are at least three federal investigatory processes underway, one by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and one each in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Testimony in hearings for one investigative body can easily lead to minor discrepancies with testimony during hearings led by the other two.
Furthermore, if the investigators have tapes of conversations (more than possible since Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice admitted she was pushing for information from the intelligence community) those giving testimony can have their memories of conversations they might have had months ago compared against recordings of the actual dialogues. The same danger will come from testing their memories against documents developed over a period of months including emails, meeting reports, and handwritten notes. Even the slightest deviation can lead to accusations of perjury.
Many members of the Trump team were engaged in numerous meetings during the transition period. If they will just go back and look at their schedules of those days and nights, they will realize how difficult it is going to be to reconstruct each conversation and each meeting with the level of accuracy these investigations will demand.
I know how dangerous this can be, because I once handed over one million pages of material to congressional investigators and was then questioned on that massive amount of information by the Office of the Independent Counsel.
When I was Speaker, the Democrats tried to use the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Election Commission and the House Ethics Committee to destroy me and stop the momentum of the Contract with America. Despite the Clinton administration’s best efforts, we defeated the IRS and the FEC. And I was cleared of 82 of the 83 charges before the House Ethics Committee – but the counsel found one inaccurate paragraph in a single letter my attorney had written. The struggle took years and cost millions.
The Trump team should take note of the most extraordinary case in my lifetime of process being used to destroy an innocent person – the conviction of Scooter Libby.
An independent counsel was appointed to find out who told the press that a woman named Valerie Plame was a covert Central Intelligence Operative in 2003. Her husband was a diplomat who had been critical of the Bush administration. So, the Left (and naturally the media) thought this was a big deal.
The prosecutor targeted Libby, who was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, because it would be damaging to the Bush administration before the 2004 election. The prosecutor claimed Scooter had shared government secrets with a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter named Judith Miller. Initially, Miller refused to testify, so – in perhaps the greatest attack on American press freedom in our lifetime – the prosecutor had Miller jailed for 85 days. Finally, she testified that Scooter was the source after he gave her permission to break reporter confidentiality just to get her out of jail.
Libby was ultimately convicted on four counts – but not for leaking information. He was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice because of the way in which he answered questions.
The most relevant part of this story – which shows the investigation was far from an unbiased pursuit of the truth – is Miller never even wrote that Plame was a CIA operative.
Washington Post writer Robert Novak first outed Plame as a member of the CIA in a piece on July 14, 2003. Novak was told by Richard Armitage, the No. 2 person at the State Department. The prosecutor in the Libby case knew this, but he was focused on destroying Libby to hurt Bush – not uncovering the truth. The prosecutor told Armitage to keep quiet in order to continue the investigation. And Armitage – who undeniably leaked the classified information to the public – was never charged.
I tell this story to illustrate clearly that the Trump team members are not going to face fair, dispassionate, balanced investigations designed to pursue truth and justice.
They are going to face a vicious, partisan, blood sport aimed at weakening Trump and destroying his administration.
Remember, 97 percent of the campaign contributions from Department of Justice employees went to Hillary Clinton. The professional ranks of the Justice Department are filled with deeply committed liberals who would consider crippling and destroying the Trump team as their moral duty.
And the nature of the House investigation was captured by Democratic House Intelligence Committee Member Rep. Joaquin Castro. He told CNN, "I guess I would say this, that my impression is, I wouldn’t be surprised after all of this is said and done that some people end up in jail."
The line should be clear.
No immunity. No testimony.
Anything else risks destruction by forces that are immoral, relentless, and frightening.
Newt Gingrich is an author and political commentator who served as a Republican Speaker of the House.