Let Republicans Explain Why the Flynn Felony Plea Is Just a Big Ol’ Nothingburger

Why is it no big deal that Michael Flynn pled guilty yesterday to a charge of lying to an FBI agent? Conservatives have run several excuses up the ol’ flagpole to see if anyone salutes. One tactic is to claim that everyone lies and it’s really not a big deal. A related gambit is to ignore the fact that Flynn is obviously being let off the hook because he’s cooperating with prosecutors, and pretend that the single charge of lying is all there is to this. Tucker Carlson went all in on this last night:

Nothing to see here folks. What’s more, according to Carlson, the big problem with special investigations like this is that often “they wind up entrapping people whose only crime is the false testimony they provide during the investigation.” This is close to a perfect description of Ken Starr investigation of Bill Clinton, and conservatives sure didn’t feel this way about perjury traps back in 1998. Back then, they thought that lying was a very serious crime indeed. I guess times change.

Another tack is to pretend that Flynn is just a minor functionary. According to the White House, he is a “former Obama official.” What’s more, they’re now claiming that the Obama administration authorized his talks anyway. It’s certainly odd that he felt the need to lie about it, then, isn’t it?

Finally, there’s the peculiar but oddly Trumpian defense: admit further guilt because you’re too dumb to realize what you’re doing.

No no no, Mr. President. You didn’t know Flynn had lied to the FBI back then! Remember? We’ve rehearsed this cover story over and over. But I guess it doesn’t matter. Trump basically admits to wrongdoing all the time, and somehow it never seems to matter. He’s confessed that he never would have appointed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General if he’d known he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He confessed on national TV that he fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation. He then admitted the same thing to the Russian ambassador, telling him that he “faced great pressure because of Russia,” but that it was all taken care of now that Comey had been canned.

This is a striking and novel strategy in American politics. I never would have thought of it myself. I guess that’s why I’m not president.