Law & the Courts

The C-List Caper

Roger Stone gestures after his appearance at Federal Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., January 25, 2019. (Reuters/Joe Skipper)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Roger Stone, rumored for months to be imminent, is more telling for what it omits than what it alleges.

Stone is charged with lying during congressional investigations of what happed in 2016 rather than for anything directly related to his laughably inept efforts to gather information on what WikiLeaks was about to dump on Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

Allegedly, Stone testified falsely about his communications with two associates in 2016, Jerome Corsi, Stone’s confederate at the Infowars conspiracy-theory site, and Randy Credico, a left-wing comedian and talk-show host. Needless to say, this was a decidedly C-list caper. Stone is further charged with witness tampering and with falsely denying that he was in possession of emails and texts documenting communications about WikiLeaks.

The evidence of Stone’s corruptly influencing Credico to stonewall the committees seems, ahem, strong. Referring to the committee’s subpoena, he texted Credico, “Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan . . . Richard Nixon.” Also: “If you testify you’re a fool.” Stone, who has long prided himself on his outlaw politics and may now have literally lived down to his self-image, also made a reference to mobster Frank Pentangeli’s sudden bout of amnesia during congressional testimony in The Godfather: Part II.

Most of the 23-page indictment weaves the tale of the longtime Trump associate’s desperation to find out what WikiLeaks had, and to press sources who had access to Julian Assange — particularly Credico, who interviewed him. The idea, clearly, was to urge WikiLeaks to publish damaging information in the weeks before Election Day. Stone, however, is mostly in the dark. His one request — through intermediary Credico, that Assange provide information about a specific incident (not described) during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state — is apparently rebuffed.

For all the big wind-up, Mueller’s case does not allege Stone’s confederation with WikiLeaks; it is built on Stone’s apparently foolish lies, denying the existence of conversations and written messages that could easily be proved.

At least one of those conversations was with a person the indictment describes as a “high-ranking Trump campaign official” (identified in some reporting as Steve Bannon, who was then the campaign’s CEO, and who has been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators). Stone also has exchanges with an unidentified “supporter” of the Trump campaign as well as a “reporter who had connections to a high-ranking Trump campaign official.” In summary fashion, the indictment asserts that in June and July 2016, Stone informed “senior Trump campaign officials” he had “information” indicating that WikiLeaks had “documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.” But Mueller does not claim that this information came from WikiLeaks itself (and, though the indictment does not mention this, The Daily Caller has reported that Stone had other sources who predicted that WikiLeaks would release compromising information about the Clinton Foundation — which it never did).

After WikiLeaks began publishing hacked DNC emails on July 22, the indictment alleges that a “senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton campaign.” There is no indication of who did the “directing.” Stone has denied it was Donald Trump, but it is not clear he’d be in a position to know that. In any event, Stone is said thereafter to have “told the Trump campaign about potential future releases” (emphasis added). That is, the Trump campaign did not know what WikiLeaks had or would do, and the best Stone could do was surmise what it might have and might do.

We rehearse this detail to point out that, after more than two years of investigation premised on then–FBI director James Comey’s highly irregular public announcement (in congressional testimony shortly after Trump’s inauguration) that the bureau suspected Trump-campaign “coordination” in Russia’s espionage efforts, the special counsel has never alleged a conspiracy between Trump associates and the Kremlin. In fact, his indictments indicate that Russia orchestrated hacking operations on its own and passed the stolen emails to WikiLeaks, which published them. The Trump campaign obviously hoped to benefit from anti-Clinton revelations of any kind and from any source, no matter how unsavory. But the Stone indictment elucidates what Mueller’s earlier Russian indictments indicate: There is no reliable evidence of Trump-campaign complicity in Russia’s hacking, the campaign did not know what Russia stole, and it had no connection to WikiLeaks’ acquisition or publication of Democratic emails — which themselves had scant bearing on Mrs. Clinton (she is virtually absent as a participant, though it is clear that the DNC favored her over rival Bernie Sanders).

Given how suspicions over Russia connections have roiled over politics and cast a cloud over the White House, it is past time for the Justice Department to state whether it stands by the explosive suggestion in then-director Comey’s testimony, subsequently reiterated by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, of Trump–Russia coordination.

What we know beyond a doubt is that Trump and the campaign had too many sleazy associates, with Roger Stone high on the list.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular

White House

The Trivialization of Impeachment

We have a serious governance problem. Our system is based on separation of powers, because liberty depends on preventing any component of the state from accumulating too much authority -- that’s how tyrants are born. For the system to work, the components have to be able to check each other: The federal and ... Read More
Elections

Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More
U.S.

‘Texodus’ Bodes Badly for Republicans

‘I am a classically trained engineer," says Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, "and I firmly believe in regression to the mean." Applying a concept from statistics to the randomness of today's politics is problematic. In any case, Hurd, 42, is not waiting for the regression of our politics from the ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More
Culture

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More