We’re not seeing our finest hour of governance.
Our judicial and executive branches are making us look more like a half-peeled banana republic.
What else can you conclude when a federal judge hurls the accusation of treason at Michael Flynn, the former director of America’s super-secret, super-important Defense Intelligence Agency?
And when this judge does so before his scheduled sentencing of the former DIA director who was later President Trump’s national security adviser (for all of 24 days in 2017)?
“All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser,” the judge snarled at Flynn. “Arguably, that undermines everything that this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out.”
While Turkey’s government was using a friendly Turkish source to pay Flynn big bucks to lobby the U.S. government, Mr. Flynn somehow kept forgetting to register as a foreign agent as required by U.S. law.
He also forgot to reveal to Mr. Trump that he was in effect on the Turkish government payroll when Mr. Trump was bowling himself over by winning the Electoral College in November of 2016.
What are you to conclude about the state of our nation when later in the same day (Tuesday) in the same courtroom, the same judge says he didn’t actually mean to say what he actually said about Flynn’s selling out his country. Rather, he was just using his native English language and law-school training to express his state of mind. He was, you see, just “curious.”
Tuesday’s events do read more and more like trash fiction. As the day wore on, the judge allowed that, oops, he forgot the defendant had quit lobbying for Turkey in mid-November 2016.
That was two months before the newly sworn-in Mr. Trump made Flynn his national security adviser.
“I feel terrible about that,” the judge said about having called Flynn a traitor only an hour before.
Well, yeah — “terrible” wouldn’t be an overstatement under these circumstances.
But why’d this judge bring up Turkey in the first place when the judge was about to sentence Flynn for lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the Trump presidential transition?
Beats me. Maybe he was just in one of those banana-republic moods.
But then what are you to conclude from special counsel Robert Mueller’s wringing a guilty plea from Flynn in December 2017 when Flynn’s chats with the Russian ambassador were not a crime. And when the only crime was lying to the special counsel by denying those chats happened?
That’s the American way — the proper way for the executive branch to entrap citizens? Yes, yes, I know it’s not technically entrapment. It just quacks like entrapment.
All this transpired not in some stupid inside-“Washington novel” but during what was supposed to be the sentencing — premature some of us thought — of Flynn.
The strangely behaving judge kept asking Flynn attorneys if they didn’t want to postpone sentencing.
Turns out the judge was trying to remind Flynn, who has been cooperating with federal — Mr. Muller’s‘ — prosecutors, that he has more testifying on his to-do calendar as a government witness at trials of former colleagues.
No, you didn’t read the previous sentence wrong.
The judge gave every signal possible that Flynn and his legal team should smartly execute an about face and march the hell out of that courtroom so he could face sentencing later. Under more felicitous circumstances. After collecting some more brownie points from the prosecution for his cooperation.
You know, give the judge more justification for not handing defendant Flynn any time behind bars.
I’m all for that, but don’t understand why he kept Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the dark about his Russian contact and his foreign agentry.
Or maybe he didn’t keep his lips zipped with Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence on those Russia and Turkey lapses.
Don’t think I want to go down that unmarked path.
Instead, let me ask what we are to conclude from the fact that the prosecution — that is, the Justice Department, headed until not too many days ago by another of Mr. Trump’s loyalists — had recommended to the judge that he not sentence Flynn to any time in the slammer?
The judge, who is the chief decider in these matters, warned Flynn that he could slap him with time in the cooler even though the prosecution recommended no jail time.
Finally, after multiple appearances before the same judge in the same courtroom for the same purpose — sentencing — Flynn and his legal team saw the billion-watt strobe light and told the judge, well, yes, on fourth thought, we’d like to put off sentencing, your honor.
So the republic must now limp past Christmas and New Year’s, shiver through January, February and into part of March with the fate still hanging over a still unsentenced decorated retired lieutenant general.
That would be the same Flynn accused then not accused of treason by a federal judge in the middle of a long investigation into Trump-Russian collusion that has produced no evidence of said collusion.
That investigation is being conducted by a special prosecutor who is answerable to no known person or entity within or outside of America’s territorial limits.
He got to win indictments or guilty pleas from dozens of people who did things that have nothing to do with Trump-Russia collusion.
The special counsel got to do all this with a judiciary that’s looking, well, a bit odd. And with Republicans running the executive and legislative branches of what? A great nation that’s decided it wants to do a good imitation of a banana-peeling republic?
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