Via Mediaite. Between this and Shep announcing the news that Trump’s shady charity is shutting down amid legal scrutiny, you can see why I said last night that, despite his best efforts, Andrew Napolitano remains a distant second in Fox News’ viewers list of least favorite personalities. For sheer enthusiasm in truth-bombing POTUS’s fan base, no one on Fox tops Shep.

“The judge also questioning Flynn… and his lawyer about their memo last week that suggested that FBI agents might have tricked the former national security advisor when they didn’t tell him lying to the FBI is a crime. You heard the theory floated by the White House and its defenders here and elsewhere. That all blew up today. Michael Flynn himself said he is not challenging the circumstances of the interview, that he knew lying to the feds was a crime when he lied to the feds, that he was not entrapped, that he was guilty.”

A mystery: Why did the sentencing memo submitted to the court by Flynn and his lawyers imply that the FBI had engaged in malfeasance if Flynn wasn’t prepared to stand by that accusation in open court? Today was supposed to be the moment when Michael T. Flynn pointed his finger at the “deep state” and exposed their dirty tricks in his own words before a roomful of reporters. Trump was so excited about it that he previewed Flynn’s court appearance on Twitter this morning:

In the end he had nothing to say about collusion. And he had nothing to say about FBI malfeasance despite the court quizzing him about it. The judge embarrassed himself by pressing Flynn about treason(!) but it was fair of him to ask whether, based on the memo, Flynn wanted to withdraw his guilty plea. How could he accept the plea of a man who seemed to imply that he was not guilty, who was manipulated and victimized by a rogue FBI to serve its own political ends? It was a proverbial engraved invitation for Flynn to make the case that MAGA-ites have been making on his behalf for months, that he was railroaded by James Comey and Peter Strzok. He refused to do it with the judge right in front of him.

But again, then why’d he do it in the sentencing memo? The answer, I assume, is that Flynn is looking ahead to life after Russiagate. All of his friends and fans are in the Trump-dominated right now. He needs to stay in their good graces. And so far he has, for the simple reason that unlike Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort he’s a MAGA true believer. Cohen was a private crony who came along for the ride when Trump ran for president; Manafort was an establishment mercenary who hopped aboard the Trump train opportunistically for a few months. Flynn’s the only one of the three who joined Team Trump for the same reason Trump fans did, because they supported the cause. He wears a halo because of it to this day despite the fact that he’s apparently cooperated with Robert Mueller so extensively (and may continue to cooperate with him, per today’s hearing) that Mueller asked for no jail time for Flynn’s offenses. It’s actually an amazing trick. Conceivably no one has provided more info to Mueller behind the scenes as Flynn has, yet no one involved in Russiagate save Trump himself enjoys the aura of martyrdom among MAGA Nation to the degree Flynn does.

I think Flynn believed he could thread the needle, pandering to Trumpers on the one hand by playing the victim of the feds’ misconduct in his sentencing memo while playing the contrite offender in front of the court in hopes of avoiding jail time. If it had worked, he would have walked out having purchased his freedom by chattering to the dreaded special counsel’s office for months and nonetheless been in line to receive a hero’s welcome from TrumpWorld for sticking it to the FBI in his sentencing memo. It was masterfully done — until the judge forced him to pick a narrative. Was he in fact a liar who was throwing himself on the mercy of the court, or was he victimized by a loose-cannon DOJ and prepared to fight the injustice? In the end, with the judge pissed off and seemingly about to put him behind bars despite Mueller’s recommendation, he begged off and asked to postpone the hearing for a few months so that he might help Mueller out even more. What a fiasco. I hope at least that Flynn was fully informed by his lawyers before that sentencing memo was submitted that the court might treat it as a last-minute attempt to dispute the charges against him. He likely would have walked out of court today a free man if not for that.

I don’t think his refusal to accuse the FBI in court will hurt his post-Russiagate rehab tour among Trumpers unless it turns out that he gave Mueller something behind the scenes that hurts Trump. As long as he avoids injuring him to whom all loyalty is owed, he can still do Fox appearances, sell a book, do a speaking tour, etc, alleging that the FBI treated him terribly and that he only said what he said in court to avoid jail. He could even try to get Judge Emmet Sullivan tossed off the case for his weird blathering in court about treason. That would be risky if it didn’t work, but scoring a point on a new MAGA enemy like Sullivan would further endear him to righties if it did. In the meantime, Trump-friendly reporters on the right are left to debate with each other: Was Sullivan open to the idea that the FBI had engaged in misconduct, or was he completely closed off to it because he was biased against Flynn? The latter argument is stronger than the former but both are being made this afternoon.