Making the click-through worthwhile: Roger Stone gets arrested, a preview of this year’s Koch network winter meeting, and a quick peek at what’s being said at the Davos World Economic Forum.
Roger Stone Arrested After Robert Mueller Indicts Him on Seven Counts
Around 6 a.m. this morning, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller announced that former Trump adviser and associate Roger Stone “was arrested in Fort Lauderdale today following an indictment by a federal grand jury on Jan. 24, 2019, in the District of Columbia. The indictment, which was unsealed upon arrest, contains seven counts: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering.”
Stone, who has been under scrutiny for months by Mueller, has acknowledged exchanging messages during the 2016 campaign with Guccifer 2.0, a Twitter persona that U.S. intelligence officials say was a front operated by Russian military officers who conspired to hack Democratic emails.
Stone, who served briefly as an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015 and then continued to informally advise him, publicly cheered on WikiLeaks as it released emails hacked from Democrats during the race and before the election claimed he was in contact with the group’s founder, Julian Assange, whom he called “my hero.”
The indictment, which quotes Stone’s text messages and emails, looks pretty tough.
Stone told investigators that he never talked about his contact with an “intermediary” with anyone on the Trump campaign. The indictment then quotes various messages to “a high-ranking Trump Campaign official” and “multiple individuals involved in the Trump Campaign” about “Organization 1” (that is WikiLeaks) and Stone’s knowledge that it would release “a load every week going forward.”
(If you have any doubt that “Organization 1” is WikiLeaks, the indictment states, “the head of Organization 1 was located at all relevant times at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, United Kingdom.” That’s where Julian Assange has resided since June 2012.
The intermediary is referred to as Person 2, which left some thinking that it was Jerome Corsi, but sections of the indictment indicate that this is Randy Credico. The indictment declares, “On or about August 23, 2016, Person 2 asked STONE during a radio interview, ‘You’ve been in touch indirectly with [the head of Organization 1] . . . Can you give us any kind of insight?’” Stone made these comments on Credico’s program.
The indictment says that Stone was contacted by senior Trump officials and directed to inquire about future releases from WikiLeaks. In mid-August, Stone and WikiLeaks started using a “go-between,” according to the indictment. (This go-between is believed to be Jerome Corsi.) Stone allegedly lied to the House Intelligence Committee and attempted to get someone else to lie to the committee.
Way back in August 2015, I interviewed Stone after he made a dramatic public split from Trump. He’s always been one of the strangest creatures wandering through the political scene, gleefully welcoming the label “dirty trickster,” boasting of his Richard Nixon tattoo on his back, and wearing fancy clothes, but never socks. The Matt Labash profile is legendary, but it almost seemed like Stone was genetically engineered to be the subject of magazine profile pieces, a perfect combination of weird, funny, outlandish, occasionally insightful, never-boring, and more than a little bit crazy. (Other figures in this category: Democratic political consultant Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, Joe Biden, Donald Trump. Maybe throw in Newt Gingrich.) I had written years ago that Rahm Emanuel engaged in behavior that, if committed by other people, would be considered psychotic — mailing people dead fish, stabbing a restaurant table with a steak knife, etc. and that no Republican could ever count on such sympathetic “what a character!” coverage. Maybe Roger Stone comes closest to that Teflon sympathy. It is notable that Stone’s driving force in his political life has been personas, not policies. He aims to win the competition before him at all costs — what he wants to win for is secondary. A friend and former client Jeff Bell told Labash, “I don’t think he’s that ideological. He’s a political junkie. He loves to be in the middle of it.”
One last irony: The FBI agents who arrested Stone this morning . . . aren’t getting paid this month because of the shutdown.
Get Ready for Koch Coverage
I’m off to the Koch Seminar Network’s winter meeting today. Last winter, the group’s preeminent issue was criminal-justice reform and prison anti-recidivism programs, and I wondered if it would really get that much attention or effort in Washington in a reelection year. But by the end of the year, the House and Senate managed to pass legislation on those priorities and Trump signed it — one of the biggest, and few bipartisan achievements of this administration. My understanding is that this year the organizations under the Koch banner will be focusing their energies on chronic unemployment, drugs and addiction, and poverty.
The Washington Post is reporting that the Koch network expects to sit out the 2020 presidential race, and this shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. The Kochs sat out the 2016 race, and the feelings about the Trump administration among the Koch-aligned donors at the winter meetings have been quite mixed the past two years. By and large, the Koch crowd loves the tax cuts, regulatory rollback, judicial nominations and criminal-justice reform. They don’t like the administration’s positions on immigration (particularly skilled legal immigration) or tariffs, and generally loathe the president’s general tone and attitude towards the job. I’ve described the Koch philosophy in the past as being an odd form of “communitarian libertarian,”aiming to shrink the government but simultaneously strengthening civil society and private charity and community groups. A lot of groups on the Right talk about that second aspect but don’t quite bring as much energy to those efforts.
Meanwhile, at Davos . . .
I miss Jay Nordlinger’s old Davos diaries. He was like a sane, non-billionaire pilgrim in an unholy land of the world’s most rich and powerful. You may hate the Davos crowd, and it’s obvious that the world’s wealthiest, most-connected, and most influential individuals are all shaped, and some would say warped, by their near-permanent bubble of elitism.
Then again, maybe there’s a glimmer of humility after the repeated servings of humble pie — from Brexit to Trump’s election to the inability to mitigate the Syrian Civil War or stop waves of refugees or keep the Arab Spring from souring or keep North Korea from firing missiles or deter Russian aggression. Just think, at the darkest hour of the 20th century, world capitals featured men like FDR and Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle . . . forty years later, we had Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. Our leaders were as big as our challenges.
Today we’ve got Trump, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel on her way out . . . how confident do you feel?
Foreboding about the future was a prevailing theme at this year’s Davos, sometimes even with dash of dystopian prophecy. This brooding was accompanied often, in speeches and interviews, by a rueful acknowledgment that government leaders are desperately improvising — often with bleak results — to meet the political crises of the moment, much less the long-term technological and climatological challenges of the age.
In key Western capitals, governance is failing. China is exploiting. Global temperatures are rising. Tech titans are groveling. Prospects for economic downturn are rumbling.
Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam called politics the biggest risk for 2019 amid mounting populism. The U.S. government shutdown is having a “big impact on the economy,” said David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group. Italy got admonished by European policy makers for its anti-EU rhetoric: “Changing Europe is one thing, destroying Europe is another thing,” said EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. As for Brexit, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond saw a “very real” risk of it happening without a deal.
Gee, fellas, if you really think populism is such a threat, maybe you ought to take some action to alleviate the issues that are driving people to support populists!
ADDENDUM: Jonah points out the inconvenient truth that the current shutdown fight could have been avoided, or at least resolved earlier, if Congressional Republicans had tried to fund a wall or additional border fencing when they controlled both houses:
By constantly paying lip service to the president’s cherished policy goal while doing nothing, Republicans made it inevitable that he would get fed up with the delays and force a confrontation. At the very least, the congressional GOP deserves a larger portion of the blame, and its insistence that this is only a crisis now that it is not in charge should be added to the hypocrisy list alongside the Democrats’ sudden moral horror of walls.