Non-lawyers understandably focus on the equities that are in Flynn’s favor. They skip over the inconvenient fact that he got up in court, pled guilty as charged, and provided the court with an explanation of why he was guilty. Legally, it is almost impossible to un-ring that bell. A plea proceeding is an exacting affair, in which the accused is thoroughly advised of all the rights he is waiving, and the judge takes pains to ensure that he is pleading guilty because he has committed illegal conduct with criminal intent. It is exceedingly rare for a plea to be vacated after it has been accepted by the court.

More importantly (and this is the point people tend to miss), the accused usually pleads guilty because it is a good deal. In Flynn’s case, he could have been charged with multiple false-statements counts; in addition, because of Mueller’s harsh treatment of people who act as agents of foreign governments without registering with the Justice Department (an offense heretofore very infrequently prosecuted), there was the possibility of charges involving his company’s work for the government of Turkey, in which Flynn’s son may have been implicated.

Understand: I am not saying Flynn is necessarily guilty of additional crimes. I am saying that even if by some legal miracle Flynn were permitted to withdraw his plea, Mueller is not going away.