Former national security adviser Michael Flynn should not automatically be presumed guilty of anything just because he wants to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, Rep. Chris Stewart said Tuesday.
"People think that's rather dramatic, but it's really not," Stewart, a Utah Republican, told CNN's "New Day" program. "We've seen almost every one of these investigations, whether Hillary Clinton with emails and technical people on the IT side who took the Fifth. Remember Lois Lerner, with the IRS scandal, took the fifth."
In fact, he continued, "I think almost any good attorney in similar circumstances would encourage their clients to do the same thing."
On Monday, The Associated Press and Fox News reported Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general would invoke his Fifth Amendment right to the Senate Intelligence Committee in response to its subpoena for records in relation to to its probe into Russian contacts with Trump campaign staff and advisers.
Flynn asked for immunity in exchange for his testimony in March, and at that time, the Senate denied the request for immunity, calling it "wildly preliminary."
Trump, as a candidate, railed against people invoking the Fifth, calling it "disgraceful" and asked why anyone who is innocent would take that step.
"This is where I might disagree with him," said Stewart. "This is an example where campaign rhetoric overtakes what most people are comfortable with. That is once again this is not uncommon. We presume innocence until proven guilty. We also don't presume we can force someone to testify against themselves in this case."
Further, even if Flynn does take the Fifth, that won't stop the investigation, said Stewart.
"There's other people we can talk to," he said. "There's other questions we can ask, confident in the end we'll get the information, regardless."
Stewart also said he does not believe Flynn to be the "heart of of the matter" in the case.
"If you're assuming there was collusion between, you know, the previous campaign and the Russians, I guess maybe he would be one of the key witnesses there," said Stewart. "But there really is much more than that. There really are many other people we can talk to. Like I think in most investigations where people do take the Fifth, which isn't unusual, at the end of it they are almost always able to come to the truth."
The more important part of the investigation will be whether Russia interfered in the presidential election, said Stewart.
"They are looking at this and smiling ear to ear," he said. "This is beyond their wildest expectations of success. Remember, primarily what they wanted to do was break down foundations of democracy, break down trust of American people in the electoral process. They have certainly done that. I'm sure they will try to do that again. I think that's the area we should focus on. How do we recognize that and how do we counter that?"
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