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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Nancy Pelosi's 'prison' remark completes a circle of mud

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 23.  Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

Sooner or later those nasty "lock-her-up" chants were bound to come full circle.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn stood before the 2016 Republican convention whipping the faithful into a frenzy against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

"Yeah, that's right. Lock her up," he told those chanting. "If I did a tenth of what she did, I'd be in jail today." He wasn't specific, but facts were never the point.

Now, of course, "Bad Karma" Flynn awaits sentencing on his guilty plea to a felony in deliberately lying to the FBI over talks with the Russian ambassador.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week took a play from the Trump book on deflection. Undoubtedly aware it would probably come out, she told colleagues in "private" that she didn't want to see Trump impeached but in prison.

How this would happen — such as just what Trump allegedly did to earn him a criminal sentence — was unknown. But it didn't seem to matter. She was telling us how she felt, not what she planned.

What mattered for the moment was that Pelosi got to paint over divisions within her party over impeachment in a bid to unite partisan bile against her nemesis.

And it worked for the duration of a news cycle, as these things are designed to do. Trump reacted with the television version of a foot-stomping hissy fit that his promoters will call "counterpunching."

“I think she's a disgrace. I don't think she's a talented person,” Trump said of Pelosi. “I've tried to be nice to her because I would have liked to have gotten some deals done. She's incapable of doing deals. She's a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”

Turning tables is fun for combatants. During the American Revolution, the British sang “Yankee Doodle” to insult the rebels as "dandies." By the time the tide of the war turned, the colonists defiantly sang the ditty back at the British.

Trump's fans and allies have responded to the Mueller report on Russian meddling, which Trump at first called a thorough exoneration, by trying to discredit its methods and results. How much headway his deconstruction team could make remains unclear.

None of this helps spread respect for the law, or for the Constitution, or the rule of reason, or the American way of life.

But more than ever, emotions and chanting will take precedence. Will the big chant at the Democratic convention next year be "Lock him up"? Seems likely for the moment, regardless of who emerges as the candidate.

Pelosi has an inherent edge against Trump. She represents a single California district and doesn't need to be popular nationwide to wield power because it's her caucus that votes her into a leading job.

Speakers and majority leaders risk nothing battling a president of the opposing party — as Sen. Mitch McConnell and Reps. Paul Ryan and John Boehner can testify. Going for impeachment, however, might be another story.

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