Friday, January 25, 2019

It's Mueller Time, Stone Cold Edition

Long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone has been predicting his indictment by Robert Mueller for a while now, and in a glorious return to Mueller Fridays, the hammer finally dropped.

Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to President Trump, was charged as part of the special counsel investigation over his communications with WikiLeaks, the organization behind the release of thousands of stolen Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign, in an indictment unsealed Friday.

Mr. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering, according to the special counsel’s office.

F.B.I. agents arrested Mr. Stone before dawn on Friday at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and he was expected to appear in a federal courthouse there later in the morning. F.B.I. agents were also seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Mr. Stone’s apartment in Harlem.

The indictment is the first in months by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump campaign associates. Citing details in emails and other forms of communications, the indictment suggests Mr. Trump’s campaign knew about additional stolen emails before they were released and asked Mr. Stone to find out about them.

Mr. Stone’s lawyer, Grant Smith, dismissed the charges, calling them “ridiculous,” and said, “this is all about a minor charge about lying to Congress about something that was apparently found later.”

Mr. Stone, a self-described dirty trickster, began his career as a campaign aide for Richard M. Nixon and has a tattoo of Nixon on his back. He has spent decades plying the political dark arts including scandal-mongering to help influence American election campaigns, and has long maintained that he had no connection to Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. He sometimes seemed to taunt American law enforcement agencies, daring them to find hard evidence to link him to the Russian election interference.

According to the indictment, between June and July of 2016, Mr. Stone told “senior Trump campaign officials” about the stolen emails in WikiLeaks’ possession that could be damaging to Mrs. Clinton. On July 22, WikiLeaks released its first batch of Democratic emails. After that, according to the indictment, the Trump campaign sought more.

“A senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton campaign,” the indictment said, referring to WikiLeaks. The indictment did not make clear who directed the senior campaign official to reach out to Mr. Stone, though it left open the possibility that it was Mr. Trump.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, sought to broadly distance Mr. Trump from the charges. The charges brought against Mr. Stone have nothing to do with the president,” she told CNN. Asked whether he directed a campaign aide to contact Mr. Stone about the WikiLeaks emails, she repeated that the charges did not involve the president.

The full indictment is here.

Needless to say, the indictment straight up accuses Stone of knowing WikiLeaks had the stolen DNC emails and was going to drop them online, Stone was Trump's contact to WikiLeaks to get more of them, and that Stone was directed to do so by the Trump campaign.  Marcy Wheeler reminds us the "high-ranking Trump campaign official" who asked Stone about more emails was Steve Bannon but for now, we don't know who ordered Stone to contact WikiLeaks in July 2016, although Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman then, so why not name him since he's already in the bag?  My guess is as with the NY Times article, the person is Trump himself, and that's deadly for him.

The bigger problem for Trump is that obstruction of justice charge, too.  This is as close as we've come to a case for impeachment against Trump yet.

Stay tuned.

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