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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Even after plea deals, busted Trump allies recoil from penalties

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn in 2018.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn in 2018. Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn admitted in court two years ago that he lied to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian ambassador. Still up for sentencing, Flynn moved last week to get his guilty plea withdrawn.

"Michael T. Flynn is innocent. Mr. Flynn has cooperated with the government in good faith," his lawyers stated in a brief.

The U.S. attorney's office in Washington recommended this month that Flynn receive "0 to 6 months of incarceration." Flynn, the prosecutors said, had been less than cooperative in an investigation of his former lobbying partner convicted of conspiring to act as an undisclosed agent of Turkey.

Strong expressions of faith in our American judicial system and the acceptance of penalties as ordered seem to have no place in the playbook for those who were on President Donald Trump's political team.

On Feb. 20, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone is due to be sentenced on his conviction for impeding Russia investigators and Congress. He's let it be known he wants a presidential pardon, blamed conspiracies and even had to apologize to the federal judge, Amy Berman Jackson, who was baited on his website while his case was pending.

“Donald Trump, if you can hear me, please save our family,” Stone’s daughter, Adria Stone, said on Fox News after her father’s conviction.

This month, former Trump lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen appealed to the court for special ameliorations. He asked to have his 3-year sentence reduced to 1, citing “approximately 170 hours providing testimony to some eight different governmental agencies, in furtherance of their duties and obligations.”

But prosecutors have said in court papers: "Cohen never made a meaningful effort to engage in serious cooperation but instead engaged in a protracted public relations campaign, in which he sought to cast himself as both victim and hero."

In October 2018, George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about a conversation with a professor who told him the Russians had "dirt" in the form of emails on Hillary Clinton.

Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days. He told a judge then that he'd made “a terrible mistake, for which I have paid a terrible price, and am deeply ashamed."

Shame does not seem to deter him, however. In his book "Deep State Target," Papadopoulos says he and the campaign were targeted by spies and cited a "rift" with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Recently, Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's inspector general, found nothing to support a key Papadopoulos assertion that federal investigators sought and obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to surveil him.

Cynicism about the workings of the judicial process and its players are far from exclusive to the Trump circle, of course. 

But cynical remarks do issue from the president, who rails from his high pulpit about politically tainted "witch hunts" based on testimony of witnesses who "flipped" against him.

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