Lock him up! Lock him up!

Michael Flynn, the retired three-star general who briefly served as President Trump’s security adviser, got a grim lesson in karma, as his own words about Hillary Clinton come back to haunt him.

Flynn, in crisp blue shirt and red-and-white tie, leading chants of “Lock her up!” is an iconic image from July 18, 2016, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Two and half years later, Flynn was the one standing in front of a federal judge who threatened him with jail. And outside the courtroom, Flynn was the target of “Lock him up” chants that protesters directed his way. Talk about reaping what you sow.


A year ago, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about whether, during the Trump post-election transition in 2016, he discussed the lifting of sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador. In exchange for his guilty plea, he agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. Apparently, he cooperated enough to get Mueller to recommend a sentence that imposed little or no prison time.

But on Tuesday, what was supposed to be a routine sentencing hearing went off script, when Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan said he was disgusted by Flynn; questioned whether Flynn had committed treason; hinted Flynn might want to cooperate more with Mueller; and warned that if he proceeded with sentencing at the time, he could not assure Flynn “you will not receive a sentence of incarceration.” What supposedly ticked off the judge was the suggestion in the sentencing memo prepared by Flynn’s attorneys that the FBI lured Flynn into lying, by not telling him lying to the FBI is a crime.

This was either a great day for the rule of law and an independent judiciary, as Flynn was stopped from having his cake (no jail time) and eating it, too (still implying that somehow the FBI coerced him). Or, it was a disturbing example of an intemperate judge putting the squeeze on a defendant, and in effect, joining the prosecutors’ cause in getting a witness to sing as a way to avoid jail.


Yet, even if you believe the judge crossed into overwrought drama queen territory, it’s hard to feel sympathy for Flynn. That’s especially true if you cue up his Cleveland performance.

“We do not need a reckless president who believes she is above the law!” Flynn barks imperiously, as the “Lock her up” chants, at first faint, start to heat up. “Lock her up! That’s right. Lock her up,” he joins in. He then tells the crowd he has called upon Clinton to drop out of the race “because she put our nation’s security at extremely high risk with her careless use of a private e-mail server.” As the “Lock her up” chants grow even louder, he smirks, “You guys are good. You’re damn right. You’re exactly right. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Then comes the real kicker: “ If I — a guy who knows this business — if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

“A guy who knows this business” would certainly know that lying to the FBI is a crime.

“Lock her up” remains a staple chant at Trump rallies, and the president himself encourages it. But right now, it clings to Flynn in an especially damning way, as he tries to keep himself unlocked up. His sentencing has now been postponed until March, leaving Flynn at the mercy of prosecutors, while “Lock him up” chants echo unpleasantly in his head.


Which brings us back to karma. What goes around, comes around, and can be a real you-know-what.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.