Jill Stein should have sold out Michael Flynn in the Trump-Russia scandal while she still could

Back in December of 2015, just before he joined the Donald Trump campaign, Michael Flynn attended a dinner banquet in Moscow and sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Seated at the same table with them: Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. The photo of the three of them dining together has since become infamous, as it’s a suspected linchpin for the Trump-Russia scandal that played out over the next two years. Flynn is now negotiating a plea deal against Donald Trump. Jill Stein should have sold out Flynn while she had the chance.

By now, most of you know the rest of the story. Michael Flynn joined the Donald Trump campaign and then became Trump’s White House National Security Adviser. Flynn was on the take from the governments of Russia and Turkey, and was ultimately forced out after his secret communications with the Russian Ambassador were exposed. Now Flynn is accused of a wide range of crimes including failure to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and bribery, and other possible charges. He’s decided to cut a deal because, in a legal sense, he’s just that screwed. So now everything is about to come out.

Let’s be clear here: there is no evidence that Jill Stein has committed any crime. We know that the Russian government paid $40,000 to Michael Flynn to attend that dinner in Moscow, but that only ended up being a crime because Flynn tried to hide that payment from the U.S. government, and because it was part of a larger conspiracy between Flynn and Russia. Even if Russia also paid Stein to be there, she’s legally in the clear if she properly reported the payment, and if she played no actual role in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But here’s the problem she faces.

Even if Jill Stein is clean in the Trump-Russia scandal, she’ll spend the rest of her political career dogged by questions about what she was doing at that table with Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn. Now that Flynn is on the verge of confessing everything, the nature of his interaction with Putin is about to come out. Stein was there. She heard their conversation. Why didn’t she come forward back when federal investigators first started trying to get to the bottom of this? At the least, she’ll never escape the shadow of that question in the court of public opinion.

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