I spotted the young lady who later became my first college girlfriend as I rode my mountain bike across the University of Kansas campus. She offered me a brochure from her post behind a folding table. It featured the image of a candle with barbed wire.
Our first date, an Amnesty International meeting, began with a volunteer passing around profiles of political prisoners. We each chose a case that moved us and then wrote a letter to senior government officials who could address the injustice.
It was no small matter, the coordinator told me, for a foreign official to receive a letter from an American addressed to him personally. The mere fact that we could identify the persecuted by name might shame the official into reviewing the case.
In 2020, I find myself wondering whether a college student in a distant country at an Amnesty International meeting might select the profile of Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, or Michael Flynn. All of these committed the unspeakable crime of helping Trump win an election.
Flynn and Papadopoulos were guilty of nothing until FBI agents got them talking long enough to find a mismatch between secretly recorded conversations and their targets’ failing memories. Manafort’s tormentors use torture through solitary confinement, violating international human rights standards. Everyone knows politics motivated the viciousness with which U.S. prosecutors pursued these men.
If an international student were writing to seek justice for Stone, she would write the letter directly to Donald Trump, the president of the United States. The president has two constitutional powers that authorize his intercession to stop the persecution of a political dissident, which Stone absolutely is.
First, as I’ve written before, Trump is the head of the executive branch. The Department of Justice is not an independent branch of government. Nobody at the DOJ stands for an election. Only through the president can the voters reach and control the awesome power of the federal criminal prosecutor. Second, the president has the un-appealable constitutional power to cancel any federal prosecution—even before the trial.
On Feb. 10, holdovers from the lawless reign of terror known as the Robert Mueller probe filed a sentencing memorandum recommending nine years in prison for their political target, Stone. The memorandum contains one critical untruth: That Stone had something to do with the WikiLeaks dump of emails that embarrassed the media in the fall of 2016.
They wrote, “During this time period, Stone regularly communicated with senior Trump campaign officials—including Deputy Campaign Chairman Richard Gates and Campaign CEO Steve Bannon—about WikiLeaks’ plans to release more information that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. Both Gates and Bannon believed that Stone was providing them with nonpublic information about WikiLeaks’ plans.”
Stone had nothing to do with WikiLeaks although he exaggerated and boasted to make himself seem important. As I previously wrote,
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.’ But all of this was known and if you read the indictment carefully, the Government admits, ‘In the days preceding these messages, the press had reported that the head of [Wikileaks] 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 was just gossiping about what he read in the news. He is accused of lying about gossiping about WikiLeaks. Congress asked him for any evidence, “that reasonably could lead to the discovery of any facts within the investigation’s publicly announced parameters.” He said he had no communication “about” WikiLeaks.
If he meant communication with WikiLeaks, Stone was being truthful. But he failed to disclose his emails containing idle gossip and speculation about WikiLeaks, and so was strung up in court.
Stone was also charged with jokingly suggesting that another witness repeat the performance of Frank Pentangeli, a character from “Godfather II” who pretended not to remember or know the answers to congressional questions. That witness also had no inside knowledge from WikiLeaks. It was a stupid thing for Stone to say, and it may have met the minimum standard for criminal tampering with a witness. But federal prosecutors asking for a punishment of nine years in prison? That’s ridiculous.
Stone’s prosecutors not only attempted to mislead the court (suggesting Stone was conspiring with WikiLeaks when he wasn’t) but they also deceived their bosses in the Department of Justice.
As noted by the government’s amended sentencing memorandum, “While it remains the position of the United States that a sentence of incarceration is warranted here, the government respectfully submits that the range of 87 to 108 months presented as the applicable advisory Guidelines range would not be appropriate or serve the interests of justice in this case.”
The day the government submitted that revised memorandum, the prosecutors who had attempted to deceive the court and their DOJ superiors all resigned in a huff. Let’s hope the door hit each of them in the backside as they stormed out.
The Stone case is just one battle in a multi-front war against the constitutional right of the people to elect the leaders who have power over them. Over and over and over again, we’re told that the elected president threatens the Constitution by failing to submit to his un-elected bureaucratic masters. Impeachment was about the president failing to take direction from Lt. Col. Alex Vindman and failing to submit to unelected intelligence bureaucrats.
With the benefit of a middle school civics class, my son put it this way: England has ceremonial nobility, but power is determined through elections. In America, we have the opposite. That’s exactly right. These bureaucrats consider themselves more educated and moral than the grubby political leaders we send them after elections. All countries have elections. But if you want to live in a real democracy, the elected leaders must be allowed to wield power.
The WikiLeaks emails in question embarrassed the media with first-hand evidence of their politically corrupt collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign. A little sunlight on the media might have helped restore its independence. THat is why the media so desperately want to punish anyone connected with the revelations. Chris Cuomo on CNN even falsely told his viewers that they might be guilty of a crime for merely reading the emails.
As usual, the media have completely inverted the “rule of law” principles at stake. Former prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg penned an article in the Washington Post insisting that, “being asked by that leadership to allow politics to corrode our work is not remotely normal or permissible. And it is treacherous.” There we go again: a president commits “treason” by questioning his bureaucratic underlings.
Rosenberg added, “What political leadership did here — mandating a favor for a friend of the president in line with the president’s publicly expressed desire in the case — significantly damages the rule of law and the perception of Justice Department fairness.”
Rosenberg has it exactly backward. The rule of law provides for presidential oversight when prosecutors run amuck. Political accountability for these prosecutors was long overdue.