The Roger Stone indictment and arrest is yet another Mueller team flop. As I showed in November, the Stone “bombshell” emails that appeared to show advance knowledge of WikiLeak releases actually show nothing of the sort. Weeks and even months before Jerome Corsi’s email to Trump advisor Stone possibly suggesting more “dumps” about Hillary Clinton were coming, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had publicly promised to publish more Clinton material.
The Stone indictment also misleadingly omits crucial facts to make it appear as though Stone was trafficking in something other than public knowledge and wild guesses. According to the indictment, “During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about [WikiLeaks] and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.”
There it is! The smoking gun of collusion! Stone knew WikiLeaks was about to release more emails! How did he know this? Well, he might have watched Assange’s press conference on June 12, 2016, in which Assange announced, “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton…we have emails pending publication.” Subtle, no?
The indictment goes on to state that Stone claimed to be an intermediary between Assange and the Trump campaign. Let’s stop right there for just a second. WikiLeaks released at least three batches of Clinton-related emails. The first was legally obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. WikiLeaks is not purely a Russian front trafficking in hacked documents.
The second batch originated in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server, stolen and then given to WikiLeaks. The third batch originated from a simple phishing scam of Clinton aide John Podesta. Those emails also found their way into WikiLeaks’ hands. It’s actually legal and constitutionally protected for a news outlet to publish stolen material. Thus, there’s nothing improper about a campaign seeking advance knowledge from the publishing outlet unless it can be shown that the campaign somehow coordinated with the thieves themselves.
The Clinton campaign had an agreement with Politico, for example, to send advance copies of Clinton stories to the DNC. Unlike the Politico/Clinton collusion, it does not appear that WikiLeaks coordinated at all with Stone.
It’s worth remembering that the WikiLeaks Podesta dump revealed what appeared to be a smoking gun about the Clintons using Hillary Clinton’s official position to augment donations to her family’s foundation and paid speaking engagements for her husband. It’s astonishing that the media don’t see Clinton’s abuse of her official position as the crime. No, it’s the public exposure of that Clinton corruption that is the crime. It makes one wonder how big the operation would have become under President Hillary Clinton.
The indictment admits Stone was simply engaged in dishonest name dropping, passing off publicly available information as the inside scoop. According to the indictment, Stone did not have a direct link to WikiLeaks. According to the indictment, Stone then changed his story to suggest that he had a mutual friend with Assange.
That person, Person 1, is believed to be Corsi. Stone emailed Corsi to say, “Get to [Julian Assange] at Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending…emails.” That little gem has been known since at least November of last year thanks to the not-so-leak-proof Mueller team. Corsi claims he never met with Assange, and the indictment does not allege otherwise.
A second email from Corsi also appears to be damning but is again just big talk from a fellow name-dropper making educated guesses about what was already available. On August 2, 2016, Corsi wrote, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.” As I noted in my article in November, Corsi also appears to have guessed wrong. WikiLeaks made a release on July 22 (before Corsi wrote the email) and then again in a series beginning on October 7.
The indictment also indicates that on August 8, Stone predicted that “the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.” There was no additional release between July 22 and the October releases. Again, he was just guessing.
The indictment then accuses Stone of having discussed knowledge already made public: Person 2 sent Stone a message, “big news Wednesday . . . now pretend u don’t know me . . . Hillary’s campaign will die this week.” The indictment, however, admits, “In the days preceding these messages, the press had reported that the head of Organization 1 planned to make a public announcement on or about Tuesday, October 4, 2016, which was reported to be the ten-year anniversary of the founding of Organization 1.”
Stone is accused of lying to Congress because he said he had no responsive documents to the following request: “Any documents, records, electronically stored information including e-mail, communication, recordings, data and tangible things (including, but not limited to, graphs, charts, photographs, images and other documents) regardless of form, other than those widely available (e.g., newspaper articles) that reasonably could lead to the discovery of any facts within the investigation’s publicly announced parameters.”
Stone was asked whether he had any emails or communication “about” (concerning) Assange. He said he didn’t, but he obviously did. Not emails with Assange, but “about” Assange. Thus, any idle gossip about news reports mentioning Assange would qualify.
So what we have here is an arrest of a man who pretended to be in the know with WikiLeaks (but wasn’t) and lied about it, and then lied about gossiping about Assange in emails. While the indictment breathlessly reveals that members of the Trump campaign showed interest in Stone’s pretend relationship with Assange (and interest in advance notice of any dirt Assange might have), these details are exculpatory. If the Trump campaign had been colluding with the Russians, Stone’s perceived special relationship with Assange would be of no interest to the Trump campaign because they could get the dirt straight from the horse’s mouth.
Stone is also charged with tampering with a witness by discouraging him from cooperating with Congress or the FBI. He recommended the other witness channel “Frank Pentangeli” from “Godfather II,” which might have meant that he was recommending the witness claim to forget everything he knows.
The other references suggest Stone may have encouraged a witness to limit what he turned over to the FBI. It remains to be seen whether these statements actually constitute a crime or whether they may prove to be tongue-in-cheek warnings about perjury traps and gotcha tactics that seem to attend so much of the Russia collusion investigation.
Critically, Stone is not accused of doing anything with Russians. And nothing in the indictment implicates President Trump. Remind me, what was Mueller supposed to be investigating again? The Stone indictment charges are more process crimes begging the question (again) of whether the investigation was meant to get at the truth or take down targets.
I close with this observation: The Mueller probe is doing lasting damage to law enforcement by relying so heavily on “process crimes” to go after their targets. When the public believes that law enforcement conducts interrogations into legal behavior just to catch their target in a lie, it provides a handy excuse for witnesses to invoke their rights to shirk cooperating. The memory of Michael Flynn’s interrogation (to name one example) makes even the innocent witness worry that voluntary cooperation will lead to a trap.
When the public shares the perception that these interviews can be used to criminalize otherwise legal behavior, there’s no downside to a suspect’s reputation in refusing to cooperate with the inquiring FBI agent. So investigations will get gummed up with warrants and grand juries instead of efficient voluntary interviews with witnesses who no longer trust the fairness and impartiality of the process.
And it’s not lost on anyone that the Department of Justice picks its targets based on politics (thanks, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein!). We have seen the first signs of jurors losing faith in the fairness of the process. One Manafort juror said of Manafort, “Certainly, Mr. Manafort got caught breaking the law, but he wouldn’t have gotten caught if they weren’t after President Trump.”
On her reservations, Manafort was not convicted of 10 of the 18 counts. The Stone case now appears to be yet another example of the political DOJ undermining public faith in legitimate law enforcement.