The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: Who Cares About Michael Flynn?

Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, leaves following his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse on Friday in Washington, D.C.

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Conservatives responded to the news that former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on Friday. At National Review, Andrew McCarthy downplayed the importance of the development:

Understand: If Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador had evinced the existence of a quid pro quo collusion arrangement — that the Trump administration would ease or eliminate sanctions on Russia as a payback for Russia’s cyber-espionage against the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic party — it would have been completely appropriate, even urgently necessary, for the Obama Justice Department to investigate Flynn. But if that had happened, Mueller would not be permitting Flynn to settle the case with a single count of lying to FBI agents. Instead, we would be looking at a major conspiracy indictment, and Flynn would be made to plead to far more serious offenses if he wanted a deal — cooperation in exchange for sentencing leniency.

To the contrary, for all the furor, we have a small-potatoes plea in Flynn’s case — just as we did in Papadopoulos’s case, despite extensive “collusion” evidence. Meanwhile, the only major case Mueller has brought, against former Trump-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate, has nothing to do with the 2016 election. It is becoming increasingly palpable that, whatever “collusion” means, there was no actionable, conspiratorial complicity by the Trump campaign in the Kremlin’s machinations.

National Review’s David French agreed. “[A]t the end of the day, we may well end up with multiple senior members of the administration facing prison time for covering up no crime and no collusion, just contacts,” he wrote. “If that’s justice, it’s a form of justice that will leave no one standing on the political high ground and partisans on both sides seething with rage and bitterness.”

The Daily Wire’s Frank Camp told jubilant liberals to cool it. “Perhaps Flynn has dirt on members of the Trump administration or the president himself; perhaps his plea will lead to damaging information coming to light,” he wrote. “ ‘Perhaps’ is also an easy word to toss around, and in the end, it amounts to pure speculation. So progressives might want to hold off on the ticker tape parade.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro predicted that the investigation could be advancing toward a “massive political conflagration” even absent evidence of collusion:

If there is no underlying crime — if this is sheer incompetence followed up by lying to the FBI about sheer incompetence, all based on anger at flimsily-sourced charges of Russian collusion — we could quickly find ourselves in a scenario where President Trump seeks to pardon those around him, fire Mueller, and then be put up for impeachment by Democrats — all without any proof of actual criminal wrongdoing with regard to Russia. That would turn into a massive political conflagration. We’d have a scandal about a scandal about nothing.

We don’t know yet, of course. But everyone ought to wait before declaring that there’s no there there, or that there is certainly a bombshell buried in Robert Mueller’s files.

In other news:

There was ample commentary about Thursay’s acquittal of Jose Garcia Zarate, the undocumented immigrant who killed Kate Steinle. Ben Shapiro criticized the verdict:

Zarate was charged with second-degree murder, but jurors were allowed to consider the possibility of involuntary manslaughter.

The second-degree murder charge required the prosecutors to argue that Zarate had intent and that he was playing some sort of mental “Russian roulette” before shooting. That’s a stretch, given that the bullet bounced off the pavement before killing Steinle. But involuntary manslaughter requires no such intent. In California, involuntary manslaughter is a killing without malice, without intent to kill, but with reckless disregard for human life. The distinction between involuntary manslaughter and excusable accident is participation in either an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or a lawful act involving a high degree of risk of death or great bodily injury.

In order for the defense to prevail, they had to argue that Zarate simply found the gun lying around, picked it up like an idiot, and then accidentally fired the gun; afterward, he threw the gun in the bay because the noise scared him. That’s not believable in the slightest. In fact, the jury even acknowledged that Zarate was guilty of felony possession of the firearm, which had been stolen days before from a federal agent. It’s hard to imagine why he committed a crime in possessing the firearm but not in firing it recklessly.

At RedState, Sarah Rumpf wrote a lengthy defense of the acquittal that also examined the impact of the political rhetoric surrounding the case:

The prosecutors were under tremendous political pressure. People wanted Kate Steinle’s killer’s head on a platter, even before Donald Trump ever tweeted her name.

So it’s not that surprising that “San Francisco prosecutors told the jury that Garcia Zarate intentionally brought the gun to the pier that day with the intent of doing harm, aimed the gun toward Steinle and pulled the trigger,” as the Chronicle reported, adding that the Assistant District Attorney also “spent much of the trial seeking to prove the gun that killed Steinle couldn’t have fired without a firm pull of the trigger.”

This seems to be a classic example of prosecutorial overreach.They pushed hard for a first degree murder verdict, which requires not only proving that the defendant killed the victim, but that he did it intentionally, and that it was premeditated (planned or thought out beforehand).

Hot Air’s Allahpundit homed in on the question of  Garcia Zarate’s presence in the country. “The point, simply, is that Zarate shouldn’t have been here in the first place,” he wrote. “Steinle should be alive because Zarate had no right to be present in the United States (and in fact has been deported no fewer than five times previously). But for his decision to break the law by crossing the border, there’s no shooting, accidental or not. That’s why Americans are outraged that he got to skate on her death.”