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Why Meadows getting immunity wouldn’t mean he flipped on Trump

Receiving immunity for testimony isn’t the same thing as fully cooperating. We still don’t totally know what Meadows or the prosecutors are up to.

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New reporting that Mark Meadows has testified with immunity to special counsel Jack Smith’s election-related grand jury might lead one to think he has “flipped” on Donald Trump. But that’s not necessarily the case.

While the prospect of Meadows providing testimony that could hurt his former boss is significant, we still don’t know exactly what the former White House chief of staff is up to, or the degree to which he has implicated the former president and current GOP presidential front-runner, who’s fighting several criminal cases. ??

That’s because it’s possible to get immunity without fully cooperating, flipping, ratting, snitching or whatever one’s favorite term is for what “immunity” might signal. It depends on the type of immunity — as well as the relationship with prosecutors and the prosecutors’ own plans, neither of which is entirely clear.

What sparked all of this was an ABC News report Tuesday that said Meadows “has spoken with special counsel Jack Smith’s team at least three times this year, including once before a federal grand jury, which came only after Smith granted Meadows immunity to testify under oath, according to sources familiar with the matter.” ABC further reported that, under the immunity order, “the information Meadows provided to the grand jury earlier this year can’t be used against him in a federal prosecution.”

Likewise, a subsequent Guardian report, which cited “two people familiar with the matter,” said Meadows testified under a limited form of immunity that makes witnesses testify on the promise they won’t be charged on their statements or information derived from their statements.

These reports, which have not been confirmed by NBC News or MSNBC, suggest that Meadows testified under what’s known as “use immunity,” as opposed to the broader “transactional immunity” that would fully protect against prosecution for the alleged crimes at issue. Of course, even the more limited type of immunity could effectively keep Smith from charging Meadows, a calculation that the prosecution no doubt would have taken into account. (George Terwilliger, a lawyer for Meadows, said Tuesday: “I told ABC that their story was largely inaccurate. People will have to judge for themselves the decision to run it anyway.”)

But remember, even though Meadows wasn’t charged in the federal election subversion case and possibly never will be, he’s charged in the overlapping Georgia case, which his federal immunity wouldn’t cover.

But remember, even though Meadows wasn’t charged in the federal election subversion case and possibly never will be, he’s charged in the overlapping Georgia case, which his federal immunity wouldn’t cover. Last month, Meadows lost his attempt to move his Georgia case to federal court, but he’s appealing that rejection. Once it’s clear where Meadows’ case will proceed, we may then get a better idea of his intentions. However his removal bid resolves, don’t be surprised if he ultimately joins the burgeoning chorus of guilty pleas in Fani Willis’ case, regardless of the degree of cooperation such a Georgia plea would entail. (Meadows has pleaded not guilty, as has Trump.)

Again, Meadows testifying against Trump would be significant, given how close the two were around the time of the Jan. 6 insurrection and, therefore, the light that Trump’s onetime chief of staff can shine on his mindset. As my MSNBC colleague Steve Benen observed, the former president apparently took ABC News’ report seriously, prompting a trademark Trumpian post that Steve valiantly unpacked for us. So even if Meadows hasn’t fully unloaded everything he knows, the mere possibility was enough to make Trump lash out.

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