Friday, January 25, 2019

The Roger Stone Indictment Examined

Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone was arrested by the FBI last night on charges stemming from Stone’s contact with WikiLeaks about the release of stolen DNC data during the 2016 election. Stone is being charged with obstructing the investigation into Russian interference in the election through making false statements and attempting to convince another witness to make false statements. Stone’s arrest by armed FBI agents in a pre-dawn raid was filmed by CNN.

The indictment does not directly mention President Trump but it does provide firm links between Stone, WikiLeaks and the Trump Campaign. That is bad news for a president who has claimed for years that there was no collusion, and it may explain why Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, has shifted from denying collusion to saying that the president was not involved in illegal conspiracies.

Stone’s indictment is not sealed and is available online here. Per the indictment, Stone left his official position at the Trump campaign in August 2015 but remained in contact with Trump staffers throughout the election. In June or July 2016, Stone informed the Trump campaign that he had information that WikiLeaks had access to the stolen DNC data that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.

After WikiLeaks dumped a cache of stolen emails on July 22, 2016, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed,” the indictment does not say by whom, to contact Stone about future releases. Afterward, Stone stayed in contact with the Trump campaign and informed them about upcoming dumps of DNC data.

The Washington Post reported in March 2018 that Stone had been in contact with Sam Nunberg, a Trump campaign advisor, about Assange. Nunberg may be the senior Trump campaign official, but it could also be Steve Bannon. The New York Times obtained emails between Stone and Bannon that match the dates the question.

The indictment also indicates that the FBI has access to Stone’s personal emails. It cites Stone’s correspondence with Person 1, an unnamed web media figure and political commentator, in which the two discussed WikiLeaks and coordination of attacks on the Clinton campaign. In numerous emails and in a radio interview with Person 2, a radio host, Stone claimed to be in contact with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, through a “mutual friend.” Person 1 is conspiracy author Jerome Corsi and Person 2 is Randy Credico, a right-wing talk show host.

In one email dated August 2, 2016, Person 1 told Stone, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back [from a trip in Europe]. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging…” The email continued, “Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for [Clinton] Foundation debacle.”

Stone and Person 2 were in email contact in early October and discussed the WikiLeaks “October surprise.” Stone seemed to know that something big was coming but not the precise information that would be released. When Stone sent an email titled “WTF” to Person 2 on Oct. 2 after WikiLeaks canceled a big data dump, Person 2 responded that the move was a “head fake” and said, “Hillary and her people are doing a full-court press” to stop the next dump. Afterward, Stone passed this information along to Trump supporters in the campaign and the conservative media.

A few days later on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks released the first of the emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Afterward, an associate of the Trump campaign official sent Stone a text message that said, “Well done.” Stone claimed credit for the Podesta release in subsequent conversations with Trump campaign officials.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 26, 2017, Stone denied any foreknowledge of the WikiLeaks releases. The indictment charges him with making deliberately false and misleading statements to Congress about the matter as well as lying about having documents pertinent to the Russia investigation. In truth, the indictment says, Stone possessed numerous emails and text messages about the WikiLeaks dumps including an email to a “high-ranking member of the Trump Campaign on Oct. 4 that promised “a load every week going forward.”

Stone lied under oath about his contacts with Assange. Stone said that his contacts with Assange were all through Person 2, Credico, when, in reality, he had communicated with WikiLeaks through Person 1, Corsi, before making contact with Person 2. Stone never admitted to being in contact with Person 1 in his testimony.

Stone claimed that he never asked for information about the stolen DNC documents from either Person 1 or 2. The indictment shows that Stone directed both of the intermediaries to inquire about information damaging to the Clinton Campaign. Stone also denied having written communications with the intermediaries, but the FBI seems to have been able to recover both email and text messages.

Most damaging to President Trump, Stone also lied about his contacts with the Trump campaign. The indictment says that Stone told “senior Trump Campaign officials” about the WikiLeaks materials and timing of the releases “on multiple occasions.” It specifically cites three emails in early October just ahead of the Podesta dump.

In October 2017, Stone tried to cover his tracks. He sent an email to Credico, Person 2, and asked him to confirm his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. Credico responded that Stone’s testimony was false and that he should correct it.

In November 2017, Credico was called to testify before the House Committee. His initial response was to contact Stone, who again asked Credico to lie for him. Stone also suggested that Credico say that he could remember what he told Stone or to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

“Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan. . . Richard Nixon,” Stone texted.

Credico declined to testify voluntarily before the House committee and was subpoenaed. He continued to contact Stone, who attempted to direct his testimony and instructed him not to talk to the FBI. At one point, Stone told Credico to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’” a reference to a member of the mafia in Godfather II who played dumb before Congress.

Roger Stone’s indictment does not provide a smoking gun that Donald Trump was involved in illegal collusion with the Russians through WikiLeaks. However, it is a major setback for the Trump Administration because of the years of claims that no one in the Trump campaign had worked with the Russians against Hillary. Those claims are now proven false through Roger Stone’s email and text contacts with members of the Trump campaign.

The indictment almost certainly does not tell everything that Mueller knows about the Trump campaign’s involvement with WikiLeaks and the Russians. There will no doubt be more to come in future indictments.

Originally published on The Resurgent

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