Thank you, Judge Sullivan, for certifying the nation's sanity — that ice is cold, rain is wet and the inhabitants of Trump world are also subject to the law.
When U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said "I'm not hiding my disgust" for Michael Flynn's criminal conduct, he gave voice to what was obvious to all but Donald Trump's most unquestioning supporters. The offenses were especially serious coming from, of all people, a national security adviser. Flynn had admitted he lied to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador. He also lied about his lobbying for a foreign government during the election and after.
We started the morning expecting Sullivan to go along with the prosecutors' call for a light sentence. That was to be in return for Flynn's cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigations. Instead, Sullivan gave Flynn a big piece of his mind and, with it, the option of postponing the sentencing.
The shared disgust goes well beyond the behavior Flynn lied about, shocking though it was. It centered on the contempt Flynn and company showered on the law, national interests and Americans' intelligence.
Flynn's lawyers put forth the infuriating argument that crafty FBI agents had tricked the retired three-star general into lying. Flynn defenders called it "entrapment." But let's keep it simple. All Flynn had to do was tell the truth.
His lawyers wrote that the FBI officials had not warned Flynn that it's a crime to lie to them in an interview. The FBI wanted him to relax and spill the beans.
Aha, so it's against the law to lie to FBI agents. How would a president's top national security aide know that?
In sum, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying but his lawyers argued that it really wasn't his fault. "I cannot recall an instance of a court ever accepting a guilty plea from someone who did not maintain he was guilty," Sullivan, a Ronald Reagan appointee, said, "and I do not intend to start today."
Flynn wisely chose to own up to his crimes and delay the sentencing. The alternative was a strong possibility of prison time.
Flynn once had a highly regarded military career. What made him go bad remains something of a mystery, but the signs of his turning rancid preceded his troubles with the law.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, he led vile chants of "Lock her up," in reference to Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton.
Odious turned to creepy when right before the election, Flynn tweeted a fake news story that linked Clinton and her staff to pedophilia, money laundering and other crimes. His son went further, giving credence to an insane theory that the Clinton campaign ran a child sex trafficking ring from a Washington pizzeria. A man in North Carolina believed it and showed up with a rifle.
Has a whole nation been gaslighted into thinking this stuff is just the ways of Washington? That an incoming national security adviser's secretly working as a foreign agent for Turkey is not a very big deal?
Sullivan came out and stated the obvious. He accused Flynn of selling out his country. Sullivan later said he regretted saying that. Many of us are relieved he did.
Sullivan also threw out the word "treason" as a rumination. The T-word has been sitting on a lot of tongues. Sullivan can't unsay it, and that's just fine with us.
Thanks again, Judge Sullivan, for reassuring the nation that the Trump administration hasn't been turned into some small independent country not subject to our laws. Thanks also for showing that America hasn't lost its ever-loving mind about what constitutes acceptable behavior in Washington.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.