The media's Flynn-sanity -- Diplomacy after the election is not the same as collusion before the election

Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to lying about a non-crime. Even Adam Schiff, the House Democrat most determined to ride the Russia collusion story to bigger and better things, acknowledged that conferring with a representative of Russia about the incoming administration’s Russia policy is not illegal or improper.

These discussions concerned a United Nations Security Council vote on Israel (in effect the Trump team was asking Moscow for a favor on behalf of a U.S. ally, Israel). The discussions concerned Russia’s response to President Obama’s lame-duck sanctions for Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

Such talks, we learn from Robert Mueller’s investigation, were directed by a “very senior member” of the transition team. Why shouldn’t that be President-elect Donald Trump or somebody directly conversant with his views—a k a Jared Kushner ? Voters may remember Mr. Trump saying during the campaign that he wanted improved relations with Russia. He would be doing nothing illegal here.

Then why make Mr. Flynn plead guilty to a crime related to a non-crime, unless Bob Mueller thinks he’s enlisting Mr. Flynn’s cooperation in pursuit of real crimes? Well, Mr. Mueller’s job is to get to the bottom of the Russia question, and it doesn’t help to have people lying about even things that are non-crimes. What’s more, as Mr. Flynn would have known better than most, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was a prime target for U.S. surveillance. American voters will remember that Obama officials illegally leaked contents of some of these conversations to the press during the transition. Lying about these very same conversations to the FBI wouldn’t seem to have made much sense for Mr. Flynn. But if a key witness and former high-ranking official persists in a disproven and unnecessary lie, how do you not charge him?

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Holman W. Jenkins Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. He writes the twice-weekly "Business World" column that appears on the paper's op-ed page on Wednesdays and Saturdays.