Law & the Courts

The Roger Stone Double Standard

Roger Stone departs following a status hearing in the criminal case against him brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
For all the hullaballoo around the Stone case, he still faces prison — while his partners in dishonesty are lauded as patriotic heroes.

Whether Roger Stone, the loopy, self-aggrandizing political operative, deserves nine years in Supermax for obstructing an investigation into Russia–Donald Trump “collusion” is debatable. Whether the powerful men who helped create the investigation that ensnared Stone have been allowed to lie with impunity is not. They have.

Only a few days after prosecutors melodramatically left the DOJ after Trump tweeted a defense of Stone and the DOJ subsequently revised its sentencing recommendation to be more lenient, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe was informed that he wouldn’t face charges. McCabe faced an inquiry into whether he broke the law when he denied to investigators that he had leaked information concerning a Clinton Foundation probe to the press.

McCabe went on CNN, where he is now paid to lecture citizens about the decaying state of American democracy, and claimed that being branded a liar was “one of the most sickening and demeaning experiences of my life.”

It’s a confusing statement — not merely because the IG report found that McCabe, once entrusted with immense power, had repeatedly lied under oath, but because McCabe himself had admitted to lying and apologized for it.

Was he lying about lying? Maybe he’ll tell us more in his next book.

As McCabe cozies up with his new colleagues, think of Michael Flynn, a decorated general and former national-security adviser, still mired in a four-year legal battle for allegedly misleading the FBI — not under oath — in the Russia-scare investigation that went absolutely nowhere.

No, the two cases aren’t connected. But they will surely will be in minds of millions of Americans. Because, as Andrew C. McCarthy notes, there’s a pattern:

George Papadopoulos was convicted of making a trivial false statement about the date of a meeting. Roger Stone was convicted of obstruction long after the special counsel knew there was no Trump–Russia conspiracy, even though his meanderings did not impede the investigation in any meaningful way. And in the case of Michael Flynn’s false-statements conviction, as McCabe himself acknowledged to the House Intelligence Committee, even the agents who interviewed him did not believe he intentionally misled them.

Now, if your contention is that misleading the authorities is wrong regardless of the outcome, I concur. The question then becomes: Why didn’t McCabe, James Clapper, John Brennan, and James Comey, or others who pushed Russia-criminal conspiracy theories, ever face any consequences for their own lying?

Former director of national intelligence James Clapper was likely the first Obama official to pass on the fabulist Steele dossier to the media. He had famously lied under oath to the Senate about warrantless surveillance.

Clapper was asked, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?” There is no ambiguity in that question. Clapper could have answered, “That’s not something I can discuss” or “That’s not something I should discuss.” Instead, he declared, “No, sir. . . . Not wittingly.”

That was a lie, under oath, about an issue far more relevant than anything Stone or Flynn or Papadopoulos could ever have even spoken to. It did nothing to slow Clapper’s career. In fact, Clapper was able to parlay his position into a media gig, where he helped fuel destructive paranoia about our elections.

The same goes for former director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, who first lied to Americans about there not being “a single collateral death” in covert U.S. drone strikes in 2011, and then wrapped up his term by trying to cover up an illegal CIA spying operation against an office in the legislative branch of the United States government in 2016.

The CIA was spying on the Senate, viewing drafts and emails of a report on torture that the administration didn’t want published. It was a truly dangerous attack on “democracy” (though I can’t recall many columnists lamenting the rise of authoritarianism).

Brennan first blamed the Senate and tried to get Senate staffers fired. Only after the inspector general definitively established that the CIA had indeed spied did he begin negotiating with senators about privately owning up to the scandal. In public, though, he kept saying such things as, “I mean we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the — you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”

Brennan relied on the same false earnestness, and the gravitas afforded to him because of his former title, to feed wild speculation over the 2016 election. When no evidence emerged from the Mueller report to justify his rants — as he almost surely knew it would not — Brennan explained that he had probably been given some “bad information.”

Whoops.

Then, of course, there is Comey, whose machinations have put him at the center of so many of our political disturbances over the past five years. Comey, we recently learned, oversaw an FBI investigation that relied on fabricated evidence and altered emails used in a warrant application that would form the “basis” of a sworn statement in court and allow the government to spy on Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page. We still don’t know what Comey knew. We still don’t know who was involved.

Perhaps prosecuting the former heads of intelligence agencies would be needlessly corrosive. But equally corrosive is transforming these liars into paragons of patriotism. That only feeds the perception that there are two types of justice in Washington. And if your goal is to destroy trust in our institutions, you couldn’t have hatched a better plan.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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