Every day seems to bring another OpEd from left-wing “legal eagles” with idiotic notions about how the commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence is covering up undisclosed criminal activity on the part of Stone and Pres. Trump, and how if given another chance to run DOJ, the left-wingers have great plans to unravel everything the SCO was somehow prevented from doing. Yesterday it was Andrew Weissman’s turn on the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post. Originally this story was simply going to be a rebuttal to Weissman’s continued “narrative shaping” claims. But as I worked through my response I realized that one thing I see repeated over and over in the stories originating from the Anti-Trump and NeverTrumper forces is the gaslighting they do on the reader by continuing to suggest as an “accurate” story a series of events that have no factual basis.
It seems like a full-time job – which doesn’t pay as well as I’m accustomed to – to repeatedly knock down the various strawmen and outright falsehoods these zealots keep trotting out in order to keep the false narrative alive. At the heart of this narrative about Stone, in particular, is the suggestion that Stone was, in fact, an intermediary between the Trump Campaign, and Pres. Trump, on the one hand, and Russian intelligence/Wikileaks/Julian Assange on the other hand.
Feeding this false narrative into the mainstream media as the SCO was winding up its work was THE purpose for bringing the Stone prosecution. The case had ZERO to do with vindicating some high-minded principle that Congress and the SCO needed to inform the American people about what happened. The Stone prosecution delivered two critical contributions to the perpetuation of the false narrative. First, it was an official document of the United States government created by the SCO where the actions of Pres. Trump, senior Trump Campaign officials, and Russian GRU/Wikileaks could be brought together to support the implicit conclusion there was some level of coordination/ collaboration by the former in the activities of the latter during the summer and fall of 2016 leading up to the election. The second contribution is that it provided for the public testimony of Trump Campaign officials about what Roger Stone told them regarding Wikileaks/Assange in the summer and fall of 2016, without the SCO partisans being obligated to prove that anything Stone said was true. Normally testimony in a criminal case is about factual events. Here, however, the only thing the SCO sought to introduce was just the fact that Stone had said things — even knowing what he said was untrue — because the implications of what he said fed the false narrative.
The combination of the two allowed for the false innuendo to be fed to the public as part of the narrative – to treat Roger Stone’s statements AS IF THEY WERE TRUE when the facts are that the SCO knew Roger Stone’s statements were false at the time he made them, and he was lying to the Trump Campaign officials about interactions with and advance knowledge of Wikileaks’ intentions.
The aftermath of Stone’s commutation – which I’m 100% sure was expected and planned for by the anti-Trump partisans in the legal commentariat – has been a cavalcade of ridiculous claims about what Stone must be covering up to have been rewarded by Trump with a sentence commutation saving him from a significant amount of time in federal prison. Now you have suggestions being made about future prosecutions of Stone – and with his cooperation at that point of Pres. Trump – that will be able to be brought if Trump is defeated in November. These claims are all built upon the ASSUMPTION that Stone is covering up something nefarious, and without Pres. Trump’s protection from the White House, Stone will be forced into cooperating in order to save himself.
But, what suggests that Stone has information to give which would help build any case against Pres. Trump? Are there any clues in the actual charges brought against Stone by the SCO that point in one direction or another on the question of what substantive information Stone might have that hasn’t yet been disclosed?
So let’s consider the language of the indictment and the crimes for which Roger Stone was convicted.
Indictments are not documents just slapped together with a “good enough for now” attention to detail, especially in cases with the high profile of the ones coming from the SCO. Every word and phrase is labored over because every word and phrase presents the possibility that it will be challenged by the defense. The choice of particular words – especially “qualifiers” meant to indicate a lack of definiteness – are used to create “wiggle room” or an “escape hatch” for a witness confronted on cross-examination. Writing indictments is a craft honed over time and with experience. Reading and deconstructing them as a defense attorney – especially when you recognize the “tricks of the trade” – is entertaining and often quite extremely beneficial to your client in the end.
I’ve read through Roger Stone’s indictment several times. The first time I read it I was struck by the fact that I had trouble following the connection between the “facts” and the charged offenses. After I read it again I became convinced that the confusion was purposeful. The indictment was written in such a way that the nature of the relationship between the “facts” and the charged offenses would be convoluted. In my opinion, the purpose behind the drafting was to “tie” Stone to the nefarious actions of the Russians about which he had no involvement. This was accomplished by “suggesting” such an involvement purely as a result of Stone’s lies to Trump campaign officials about those nefarious actions – statements presented in the indictment in a fashion suggesting they are true when the SCO knew the statements were false.
Rather than be forthright in the indictment and acknowledge that Stone was lying when he engaged in certain conversations with third parties, the indictment is silent about the truth or falsity of Stone’s statements to others, and merely lays out what he was alleged to have said. They do this by employing the kind of “qualifiers” I mentioned above. When you know what you are looking for, these qualifiers jump out and make you take a closer look what the indictment is really saying reading “between the lines.”
By using Stone’s words in this fashion, the indictment spins a story which is factually false but tells it in such a way that the reader is going to at first glance conclude Stone statements constitute “facts” themselves suggesting that the story is true. But the SCO knew it was false, but nevertheless wrote the indictment in such a way as to make it easy to misconstrue the story told as being true.
Here are some examples of what I’m referring to:
5. During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about [Wikileaks] and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.
The SCO admits in the indictment with the bolded language that in the summer of 2016 Stone didn’t know what Wikileaks had – his conversation with other campaign officials is speculation about Wikileaks might have, not facts about what Wikileaks had. The indictment had to be written that way because the SCO knew that Stone had NEVER been able to make contact with Wikileaks/Assange prior to October, 2016, and the first contact they could find was one of antagonism after Wikileaks had made a public comment that it had no association with Stone. But the indictment doesn’t clarify – as was true – that in the summer of 2016 Stone, in fact, had no knowledge or information about Wikileaks beyond that which had appeared in the press.
But with the language in the indictment appearing the way it did, the former SCO members now, and their fellow-travelers in the press, continue to push the narrative that Stone was sharing information with the Trump Campaign in the summer of 2016 about what Wikileaks had, supporting the false innuendo that Stone had been in contact with Wikileaks/Assange in the same time frame in order to acquire that information.
That is all false.
Back to the indictment:
6. By in or around early August 2016, Stone was claiming both publicly and privately to have communicated with [Wikileaks]…. Thereafter, Stone said that his communication with [Wikileaks] had occurred through a person STONE described as a “mutual friend”… STONE also continued to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign about [Wikileaks] and its intended future releases.”
The indictment does present a true and complete statement of the facts because the SCO knew when the indictment was drafted that Stone had not, in fact, been in contact with Wikileaks in early August 2016. It also knew that Stone had no actual information from Wikileaks — or any other source — about Wikileaks “intended future releases.”
But rather than truthfully allege that Stone had been “falsely claiming” to have communicated with Wikileaks, or that Stone, in fact, had no information about Wikileaks, the Indictment was written in a way that lent itself to being misunderstood and/or purposely mischaracterized as suggesting Stone had been in contact and did have information about future leaks that he was passing on. That makes it easier to now fit the prosecution into the narrative that Stone’s obstruction and lies to Congress were part of “covering up” a connection between the Campaign and Wikileaks in order to protect Pres. Trump.
In describing Stone’s obstructive conduct as it related to congressional investigations regarding the 2016 election, the indictment states at ¶ 8(a) that Stone:
“Made multiple false statements about his interactions regarding [Wikileaks]…
That same allegation could have been made much more directly by stating that Stone “Made multiple false statements about his discussions with Trump campaign officials regarding [Wikileaks.]
Instead, phrasing was used that placed “interactions” and “Wikileaks” almost together in the allegation. These are not accidental choices of words. The SCO did not want the reader to easily understand that the false statements made by Stone to Congress were about his conversations with members of the Trump Campaign. The purpose of this phrasing was to cause – even encourage – misreporting in the press and misunderstanding in the public that Stone was alleged to have lied to Congress ABOUT interactions with Wikileaks.
And that is the narrative that has now taken hold and been repeated across all left-wing media outlets – that Stone was in contact with Wikileaks/Assange who were acting in collaboration with the Russians, so by extension the Trump Campaign — via Stone — was acting in collaboration with the Russians. Stone’s lies to Congress were to cover up that
ALL THAT IS FALSE – and the SCO knew it was all false then, and former members like Andrew Weissman knows that’s false now.
12: After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by [Wikileaks], a senior Trump Administration Campaign official was directed to contact Sone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [Wikileaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Wikileaks.
There is no reason – other than to link the two events in the mind of the reader – to link in the allegation the “direction” to contact Stone with the date of Wikileaks’ first disclosure of DNC emails. The bolded section in the second sentence implies to the reader that Stone did, in fact, possess knowledge about “additional releases.”
But the SCO knew when they wrote the indictment that the assertions made were not true – Stone had no contact with anyone at Wikileaks by which he learned anything about potential future releases. What is written is literally “true” in that Steel did say things, but nothing Steel said had any basis in fact – he made it all up, as the SCO knew. Only one of those to allegations could be proven with evidence — Stone had said things to Campaign officials. But there was no evidence to prove the implicit suggestion – that Stone had real information – and the prosecutors knew they could not prove it because they knew Stone had not been in contact with Wikileaks.
While some might argue that it’s “fair game” to make Stone eat his own words, that wasn’t the purpose for including these references. They aren’t facts necessary to the crimes with which he was charged. The only purpose for including these allegations was to create a false impression that Stone did have knowledge about “additional releases” and that Stone shared that knowledge with Trump campaign officials. This feeds the continuing narrative now that Stone is covering up something for Trump.
Paragraph 14 nearly in its entirety is a despicable example of this tactic. It begins by stating that in early August 2016, Stone began making statements that he had been in touch with Assange. The SCO knew Stone’s claim in that regard was false. In that time frame Stone was looking for an avenue to make contact with Assange, but everything he tried had come up short. Nevertheless, subparagraphs (a)-(e) recite in quotations things that Stone is alleged to have said:
a. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation.
b. “…not at liberty to discuss what I have”
c. “…I have had some back-channel communication with [Wikileaks] and [Assange]” and “a mutual acquaintance who is a fine gentleman.”
d. “communicated with [Assange] … through an intermediary, somebody who is a mutual friend.”
e. “We have a mutual friend, somebody we both trust and therefore I am a recipient of pretty good information.”
All those comments were false – although Stone didn’t know the actual falsity as to some of what he said. Jerome Corsi was the “mutual friend”, and Corsi had lied to Stone by claiming he actually received information from Assange in London when, in fact, Corsi received nothing from or about Assange.
The SCO knew the actual facts when they wrote the indictment, yet they wrote Stone’s comments as if Stone was making truthful boasts about his connection to Assange when the SCO knew the boasts were false.
The indictment states that as late as September 30 – weeks after the comments made by Stone which are so prominently alleged in the indictment as noted above, the best Stone was able to muster in terms of getting a message to Assange was to send it to Randy Credico, with Credico passing it on to Margaret Kuntsler, a New York attorney friend who was also a friend of Assange, and ask Kuntsler to pass the message from Stone to Assange. She did pass on the message — or so she told Credico — but Stone received nothing in reply. The SCO interviewed Kuntsler. They knew what — if anything — she had passed back to Credico and Stone.
All the indictments written by the SCO are subject to this kind of deconstruction for duplicity. One benefit from having the Mueller report is you can go back through what the SCO reported to Congress and compare those facts to the allegations as they were written in the indictments.
By comparing the two, and understand what you are looking for, reveals the true motives for bringing the case.
If you go to the Courtlistner website for the Stone case, and you look at some of the SCO filings from early in the case, you see that on the Motion To Seal the Indictment, the first two SCO members listed on the signature line were Jeannie Rhee and Andrew Goldstein.
Rhee came to the SCO from her prior position as a Partner at Wilmer Hale, the same firm where Robert Mueller was a Partner prior to being named SCO.
Goldstein had been the Chief of the Public Corruption Unit in the Southern District of New York under Obama-era US Attorney Preet Bharara. Goldstein was widely reported as being the lead prosecutor on almost all matters involving allegations of “obstruction” directed at Pres. Trump in Vol. II of the Mueller Report.
The first document filed in the case after the return of the Indictment by the Grand Jury was the Motion to Seal the Indictment. At that point — and presumably during the investigation leading to the presentation of evidence to the grand jury and return of the indictment — Goldstein had been involved in the case.
But less than 4 months later, both were gone from the case. Why? Because drafting the indictment and making it a public record was their true purpose. What happened after was a secondary concern. When you understand that fact, you understand why the indictment was written — by very experienced prosecutors (not Aaron Zelinsky) — in the precise manner in which it was.
Getting a chance to convict Roger Stone and send him to jail was just icing on the cake.