Speed Reads

defined

Suddenly everyone wants to know what 'immunity' means

Suspicion and speculation erupted Thursday evening when former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was reported to have told the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees he will agree to be interviewed by officials investigating possible ties between President Trump's campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

What could that mean? Well, "immunity" works a little different in the real world than it does on Survivor. Many people approached the news word by word, with Merriam-Webster dictionary noting that "lookups for immunity spiked over 2500 percent over the hourly average" following the publication of The Wall Street Journal story that broke the news:

Immunity comes from the Latin word immunis, which means "exempt from public service." It has been in use in English for a considerable length of time (since the 14th century). The initial meaning of the word was typically more concerned with freedom or exemption from some public duty, obligation, or tax; the more common meaning today is concerned with an exemption from a legal penalty. [Merriam-Webster]

We already know that Flynn's understanding of seeking immunity is that "you have probably committed a crime." But as Peter Weber further warns speculators at The Week, while it "doesn't look great for Flynn … it isn't necessarily terrible for Trump. Essentially, everybody needs to calm down and let the legal dance play out."

Read more about what Flynn's request for immunity might mean for both him and Trump here.