I have had to shut off all of the media. The media/establishment hatred of Trump and their desire to force him from office is palpable and on near continuous display on every cable channel, including Fox. These pundits remind me of the drowning passengers from the Titanic, flailing frantically while immersed in freezing water but going no where but down. They are keen on avoiding facts. Let’s be clear what the facts are about Roger Stone.
FACT ONE–Roger Stone had an extremely short tenure with the Trump campaign. He served in an undefined position as a “campaign advisor” and either quit or was fired on 8 August 2015. Politico’s account of the incident attributed Stone’s departure to Trump’s comments regarding former Fox star, Megyn Kelly:
Regardless of who resigned or was fired first, the campaign shakeup was the first sign that Trump’s election effort was seriously damaged from within after his Thursday night debate performance and his subsequent comments in which he attacked one of the Fox debate moderators, Megyn Kelly.
Stone was never a critical component or the Trump campaign. He was not an insider and he was not a “go to guy” for Trump’s inner circle. The indictment smears Stone by an unsupported claim that Stone had regular, continuing contact with unnamed persons affiliated with the Trump campaign even after his August 2015 departure. Having conversations is not illegal. Moreover, Stone was never a go to guy for the campaign.
FACT TWO–Roger Stone does have a history with Paul Manafort, who served a brief tenure as Trump’s campaign manager. They formed a political consulting firm in 1980–Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly–and became known as bare knuckle brawlers in the world of electoral politics. They worked for Reagan and for George H.W. Bush. Worth noting that Manafort’s time with the Trump campaign started off in March 2016–seven months after Stone’s departure–as an advisor on going after delegates. He was promoted to campaign manager on May 19, 2016 and resigned from the campaign on August 19, 2016 under the cloud of being cozy with Putin:
The Trump campaign provided no reason for Manafort’s resignation. But in the days immediately leading up to the announcement, the New York Times reported investigators were looking into $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Manafort from former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the Associated Press reported he helped a pro-Russian party in Ukraine funnel money to lobbying firms in Washington, D.C.
There is a lot of speculation about who Stone was talking to. Person 1 in the indictment is Jerome Corsi. Person 2 is Randy Credico. None were involved in any substantive way with the Trump campaign. I would not be surprised if it was Manafort (or someone acting at his behest) that reached out to Stone to see if he could get any additional info about Wikileaks plans.
FACT THREE–Roger Stone is a bullshitter and grand raconteur. He can tell you things that sound spot on but are not true. I have first hand experience with him on this point. I first met Roger in the spring of 1980. I was teaching in the Washington Semester Program at American University and he spoke to my class. I did not see Roger in person again until March of 2018–we were on the same flight from Fort Lauderdale enroute to Washington. I introduced myself and we got reacquainted. Subsequent to that meeting I watched the documentary on Roger Stone and was amused to see him “credited” (or blamed) for starting the Whitey rumor–i.e., the claim that there was a video tape of Michelle Obama using the phrase Whitey in a speech before a group linked to Louis Farrakhan. Why amused? I started that rumor at the direction of Sidney Blumenthal (I did not believe it was a rumor but I was gamed–but that is a story for another day).
I ran into Roger last August, again at the airport. This time it was Washington Reagan National. I walked up to him and told him that he was being blamed for something I did. I proceeded to tell the story and he laughed when he learned that this smear of Michelle came from the Clinton Campaign. Roger is a connoisseur of dirty tricks.
With this background, I want you to take a fresh look at Mueller’s indictment of Stone. It really does tell a story that exonerates Trump of the Russian collusion narrative but also exposes the desperation of Mueller to create a crime where none exists. (BTW, kudos to Robert Willman for his excellent piece at Sic Semper).
Here’s the Mueller narrative on Stone:
During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials (NOT FURTHER IDENTIFIED) about WIKILEAKS and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.
By in or around early August 2016, STONE was claiming both publicly and privately to have communicated with WIKILEAKS. By in or around mid-August 2016, WIKILEAKS made a public statement denying direct communication with STONE. Thereafter, STONE said that his communication with WIKILEAKS had occurred through a person STONE described as a “mutual friend,” “go-between,” and “intermediary.” STONE also continued to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign about WIKILEAKS and its intended future releases.
Here is what this really demonstrates. First, Stone was talking out of his ass. He was portraying himself to people in the Trump campaign (probably Manafort) as a guy with inside knowledge. Based on what I know about Stone, I am sure he was playing this angle in hopes of getting back into the good graces of the Trump campaign. Second, if the Trump organization was actively colluding with the Russians and Wikileaks, why were they asking Stone to find out what Wikileaks had and what it intended to do with such material.
This is the most critical revelation, in my view, from this indictment–the Trump campaign did not know what Wikileaks had or what it intended to do. They were reaching out to an outsider–a third party–who claimed to have contacts with Wikileaks. But Stone did not. In typical Roger Stone fashion, his story kept changing. Initially he insisted he was in direct contact with someone there. Not true. He then admitted that he was relying on the word of Randy Credico. That probably was the truth. But Credico’s information was second hand. Randy Credico knew the wife of Julian Assange’s deceased attorney–Margaret Ratner Kunstler, widow of William Kunstler. She did have contacts at Wikileaks and was in a position to tell Credico that more dirt on Clinton was coming. But Stone was parlaying third hand information to present himself as a guy with inside knowledge. That’s not criminal. That is typical of Washington and the world of journalism.
What is being done to Roger Stone is wrong. He was playing politics and playing according to Washington rules. It may not be pretty and may not be ethical. But it is not criminal and certainly does not justify sending out a ninja clad SWAT team to take him into custody. I hope some wealthy benefactors step up and help fund Stone’s defense fund. He will win this case. Mueller and his team are the ones who have crossed an ethical and moral line.