Friday, February 1, 2019

It's Mueller Time, Rolling Stone Edition, Con't

As I mentioned on Sunday, one of the theories on why Roger Stone found an FBI SWAT team and CNN at his door at 4 AM last week was that Robert Mueller believed Stone was a risk to destroy evidence implicating him with the Trump regime, WikiLeaks, and more. Cato's Julian Sanchez:

Of course, as the indictment also makes clear, the special counsel has already managed to get its hands on plenty of Mr. Stone’s communications by other means — but one seeming exception jumps out. In a text exchange between Mr. Stone and a “supporter involved with the Trump Campaign,” Mr. Mueller pointedly quotes Mr. Stone’s request to “talk on a secure line — got WhatsApp?” There the direct quotes abruptly end, and the indictment instead paraphrases what Mr. Stone “subsequently told the supporter.” Though it’s not directly relevant to his alleged false statements, the special counsel is taking pains to establish that Mr. Stone made a habit of moving sensitive conversations to encrypted messaging platforms like WhatsApp — meaning that, unlike ordinary emails, the messages could not be obtained directly from the service provider.

The clear implication is that any truly incriminating communications would have been conducted in encrypted form — and thus could be obtained only directly from Mr. Stone’s own phones and laptops. And while Mr. Stone likely has limited value as a cooperating witness — it’s hard to put someone on the stand after charging them with lying to obstruct justice — the charges against him provide leverage in the event his cooperation is needed to unlock those devices by supplying a cryptographic passphrase.

Thursday in a court filing asking for more time to examine evidence taken from Stone's home (and all but confirmed by a Stone press conference), the Mueller team strongly indicated that Sanchez's theory is 100% correct.

Federal investigators probing Roger Stone, the former Trump campaign official indicted last week in the Russia probe, have seized multiple hard drives containing years of communication records from cellphones and email accounts, the special counsel's office said Thursday

Robert Mueller's prosecutors, in a new court filing, described the evidence as "voluminous and complex" in asking a judge to delay his trial to give them more time to sift through the seized devices.

The court papers said investigators grabbed hard drives containing several terabytes of information, including "FBI case reports, search warrant applications and results (e.g., Apple iCloud accounts and email accounts), bank and financial records, and the contents of numerous physical devices (e.g., cellular phones, computers, and hard drives)."

The FBI is doing what it calls a "filter review" of the devices, setting aside any evidence that cannot be admissible in court because it is considered privileged.

During a press conference Thursday, Stone agreed that evidence is voluminous and complex, and said both parties had agreed to the language in the government's filing.

Mueller's team also filed motions to stop Stone from discussing the case and the evidence with the media, but the big news is that now we know why the Mueller team insisted on an FBI wake-up call last Friday morning for Stone.  Cohen's electronic evidence went all the way to a special master to determine what was admissible and what was privileged, but that didn't save Cohen and he flipped like a pancake.

I expect Stone will do the same, and sooner rather than later.  Mueller has his receipts, and they are going to ring Stone up.

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