The whole process is stunning: Flynn was accused of committing several crimes, admitted to one to try to get himself off easy, agreed to cooperate, reneged on the deal, and is now free, having escaped punishment for both the crime to which he confessed and those on which he avoided prosecution.

Yet Flynn’s escape is not merely an isolated outrage. It is also a test case for loyalty to Trump. Since Flynn flipped on Trump, and then flopped back, his fate offers a lesson for others who might find themselves in a bind and tempted to turn on Trump, who continues to engage in the sort of behavior that got him impeached…

The Trump-Barr Justice Department appears to have different standards based on one’s political allegiance: For Trump critics, such as former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and political opponents, such as the Biden family, it looks high and low for a way to investigate or prosecute, leaning on novel or untested legal theories. But for loyalists (even a prodigal loyalist such as Flynn), it offers the benefit of every doubt, or at least does its best to soften the penalties (as it did for Roger Stone).