“Diplomatic immunity” is a privilege granted to foreign diplomats and ambassadors to make sure the host nation can’t falsely charge them with a crime in the name of gaining political leverage over their home nation. But Donald Trump’s State Department appears to have an entirely different understanding of the term, as it’s invoking diplomatic immunity today in the name of not revealing the cause of death of Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
Churkin unexpectedly died in New York three weeks ago, making him the seventh out of eight prominent Russians to drop dead since the Trump-Russia scandal exploded. And now we’re suddenly being told that we’re not allowed to know how Churkin died, because the information needs to be protected under diplomatic immunity.
The claim is absurd on its face for two reasons. One is that an ambassador’s diplomatic immunity is not generally considered to be still intact after his death, as its sole purpose was to protect him from being falsely charged with crimes while he was alive. But even if one were to stipulate to the odd notion that Vitaly Churkin still enjoys diplomatic immunity from the grave, it would still only apply with regard to protecting him from criminal charges.
As such, suppressing his cause of death would only fall under “diplomatic immunity” if revealing his cause of death would implicate him in a crime in the process. To pick an arbitrary hypothetical example, if Churkin were killed by police while attempting to rob a 7-Eleven, then his cause of death couldn’t be revealed without accusing him of the robbery. But even then, accusing Churkin of that crime wouldn’t be the same as trying to charge him with a crime. In other words, this is a fully nonsensical claim.
And yet the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner announced today that it can’t publicly reveal Vitaly Churkin’s cause of death because it’s been instructed not to by the city’s legal department. It’s referring any further questions to the State Department, which just happens to be run by longtime Vladimir Putin ally and recently appointed Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. This suggests Churkin’s cause of death is being covered up for purely political reasons.
Is the Donald Trump administration attempting to cover up the death of Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin because he was involved in the Trump-Russia conspiracy and he was murdered over it? Or did Churkin die of harmless causes, and the Trump administration doesn’t realize how much suspicion it’s bringing down on itself by absurdly invoking “diplomatic immunity” to suppress his cause of death? Now we find out if we can force the cause of death to be publicly released under the Freedom of Information Act. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report