It has been reported by mainstream media – such as the Washington Post, CNN and CBS – that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is gunning for Roger Stone. Reportedly a dozen of Stone’s close associates have been called before the grand jury. According to several analysts, and possibly based on leaks from Mueller’s office, Mueller plans to indict Stone after the election.
It is quite possible that this is the most politically expedient thing Mueller could do. Mueller is on the hot seat now. He has to produce something to continue to have the support of Republican senators. To date he has produced nothing of importance.
For that which he was hired to do – investigate and prosecute Russian collusion with Trump or his associates in the last presidential election – Mueller has batted a perfect zero. He has proven nothing of Russian collusion, although he has indicted a number of people and convicted a few – most notably Paul Manafort – and General Flynn. None of these convictions had anything to do with Russian collusion to interfere in the US elections.
As for Manafort, he was convicted for tax crimes – just a tax case – nothing Russian about it and nothing you would need a special prosecutor to do. As for Flynn – he got charged for telling a rather innocuous lie to the FBI about a conversation he had after the election.
There was a number of minor fry – like Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, or Alex van der Zwaan – all charged with lying to the FBI – on matters unrelated to Russian collusion. Papadopoulos got a 14-day sentence. Zwaan got 30 days. Gates was charged with the same tax crimes as Manafort. He served the Mueller effort by testifying against Manafort – and all charges against him were dropped except lying to the FBI. Based on others’ sentences, he is likely to get no more than a month.
It is true, Mueller did indict a raft of alleged Russian spies – in absentia – who allegedly interfered with the election, a case he will never have to prove at trial, since the alleged Russian spies will not be extradited – something Mueller knew in advance of indicting them. Russia would no more turn over its spies to America, than America would turn over its spies to Russia. The proof or lack thereof will never be tried. The charges will go nowhere, but it did inspire a lot of breathless Russia- Mueller headlines in the US press helping the uninformed think these toothless indictments were something other than grandstanding.
Ironically, Mueller indicted these Russians for doing exactly what American spies do – like for instance when American spooks tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.
Importantly, Mueller has not suggested these Russian spies colluded with Trump or any American. All he did was indict foreign spies for spying.
Which brings us back to Roger Stone.
Mueller needs a sideshow now. Increasingly, people are beginning to wonder why Mueller has not come up with a smoking gun on Russia and how long are we going to let him gambol around the constitution hunting phantom Russians?
Stone is an excellent distraction. He is well known; he is colorful. He is popular to some, notorious to others and indelibly connected to Trump. An indictment of Stone is going to tarnish Trump – even if the indictment is bogus. If the investigation is a witch hunt, Stone can still be proposed for burning — for the greater good of getting Trump out of office – which some believe is the only true goal for Mueller.
The challenge Mueller has with Stone is that, unlike the shady Manafort or glum Mike Flynn, Stone is likeable, good on camera. He might steal the show and undress Mueller. Stone might hijack the Special Counsel’s mission and show it for what it is – whatever it is. Just in case Stone happens to have truth on his side, Mueller might wind up biting off more than he can chew, especially if he indicts Stone on some petty nonsense that has nothing to do with Russian collusion.
Yet, Muller might still have to indict Stone – even if he knows he is innocent – just to preserve his job until he can dig up other, non-Russian-related dirt on Trump. It could backfire however on Mueller in a way that even a good ole deep state boy might not expect.
I am reminded of Whitman, “There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.” If any man ever had it – Stone has a spirit of defiance. In that respect, he is like a stone. If he comes hurling at you – ask a litany of people who had the experience – one might get hurt.
Stone has at his command – anytime he wants – a national audience. He is a best-selling author. He can write and he can speak. Everyone in the country will watch and listen to what Roger Stone says. He is not shy – he won’t be silenced – and he is a master at articulating his position.
I would suspect also that Stone will go on the offensive. He has no doubt been collecting information on the conflicts and ethical abuses of Mueller’s minions – if there are any.
Who knows, Mueller might be pressed to explain why a Russian FBI informant approached Stone trying to sell him dirt on Hillary Clinton in May of 2016, a month before the FBI says they opened a formal investigation of Trump and Russian collusion. The use of human intelligence assets prior to the opening of a formal investigation is illegal. According to the Washington Post, Stone blew the FBI informant off in a New York minute.
This fight could be epic. Despite his advantage of resources and government force at his disposal, if Mueller is not armed with truth, this could be David and Goliath.
As far as I can tell, it’s too late to indict Stone before the election. If Stone is to be indicted, expect it soon afterward. Regardless of who gets the majority – Democrats or Republicans – in one or both houses – it may be, in the short term, convenient for Mueller to indict Stone. In the long term, Stone might make it inconvenient. The pendulum works that way. Short term, if Democrats win at least one of the houses – then a post-election Stone indictment could provide impetus to impeach Trump. If Republicans maintain control, a Stone indictment could keep Mueller from being fired – “For see here he is doing his job – getting Russian colluders – inching closer to the president.”
Maybe Mueller knows Stone is not a Russian colluder, but that might not stand in the way of indicting him – relying on some minor election, or campaign finance violation – maybe some alleged tax crime – some small potatoes’ offense, nothing worthy of a special counsel – enlarged by overcharging in the grand jury and magnified by a zealous anti-Trump media adept at lying by omission. For optics, Mueller will have to toss in something Russian. A Stone indictment makes Mueller out to be doing something big and important. It’s not the crime, it’s the man. Stone is big headlines.
So how does Mueller articulate Russian collusion?
On October 5, CNN reported Mueller obtained recordings of radio interviews between former NYC radio host, Randy Credico and Stone that aired on WBAI radio during the presidential election. The interviews – which thousands heard – concern, “Stone and Credico repeatedly discuss[ing] WikiLeaks”.
Mueller could allege Stone colluded with Assange and allege that Assange is a Russian colluder – and allege the leaks of Hillary Clinton and her associates’ emails – which exposed something true about her – for the delectation of the American people – were allegedly Russian-driven, coming allegedly to Assange from alleged Russian hacking – and allegedly Stone played an alleged part in it – and thus the alleged Russian collusion was allegedly done by a close friend and alleged confidante of the alleged president himself. Gotcha, baby!
Of course, Mueller might have to prove it.
Based on our reporting at Artvoice, we doubt Stone received anything from Wikileaks. It looks like he was reading tea leaves.
In the long term, Trump, maybe, somehow, can be ousted, and in the short term a Stone indictment can create a patriotic-mandated hiatus to the growing chorus of “Mueller has done nothing, nothing at all.” If Stone is painted as a Russian colluder, there will be a chorus of “At last old Bob Mueller has gotten to the heart of it. It was worth the wait.”
As for “evidence”, Mueller can interpret Stone’s radio interviews literally. It may have been Stone doing self-promotion, smoke-blowing in political context to psych out opponents and generate buzz – pretending he knew more than he did.
Assange announced in a CNN interview in June 2016 that he was going to deliver a payload of dirt on Hillary Clinton on Wikileaks. He used his Twitter account to make similar predictions of an October surprise.
Two months later, on August 23, on his radio show, Credico asked Stone, “What about the October surprise? I mean, you’ve been in touch and indirectly with Julian Assange. Can you give us any kind of insight? Is there an October surprise happening?”
Stone said, “Well, first of all, I don’t want to intimate in any way that I control or have influence with Assange because I do not,” then he said he expected information would be released on the Clinton Foundation.
“We have a mutual friend, somebody we both trust and therefore I am a recipient of pretty good information,” said Stone.
The mutual friend, evidently, was Charles Ortel, a Wall Street analyst who forwarded to Stone an email from Fox News’ James Rosen [which was later published by the Daily Caller] that said the data dump was coming and would be about the Clinton Foundation. [Ortel turned out to be right about the data dump, but wrong that it was about the Clinton Foundation.]
Stone echoed this and further claimed he had a confirming source or back channel to Assange. When later asked about his confirming source or back channel, Stone told Congress that it was his radio host – Randy Credico himself. [Movie producer David Lugo told Artvoice that Credico admitted he was Stone’s so-called back-channel or confirming source.]
Two days after Stone made claims of knowing what Assange would likely do – on August 25 – Assange was interviewed by Credico on his radio show. Assange again said he would deliver a payload on Hillary Clinton.
Assange added, “Roger Stone is a rather canny spinmaster and we have not had any communications with him whatsoever.”
When asked by Artvoice if he believed Stone ever met Assange, Credico replied “No, not a chance in the world.”
Credico said Stone is a “showman” and he believes Stone had no “back channel”, although Credico told Artvoice that Stone might have called him his confirming source for whenever Stone would ask Credico about what Assange was going to do, Credico would say – “just read his Twitter.”
Credico told Artvoice that he believes Mueller knows that Stone was not in contact with Assange, yet Mueller might indict Stone to give Mueller more time to pursue tax and financial crimes against Trump.
Credico said he believes that the Russian collusion investigation is nothing more than a witch hunt for Trump, that it’s all about “tax dodging” “money laundering” and that, “the Russians did not give the material to Assange and it wasn’t a [Russian] hack, it was a leak.”
“Mueller’s smart enough to know there’s no collusion,” Credico told Artvoice. “They want to get [Trump] on these economic things…. Tax shelters, that are illegal or washing money, with banks or real estate. Mueller knows there is no collusion.”
If Stone was colluding with Assange, why did Stone announce it on the radio?
Presupposing Assange is a Russian asset and his leaked Clinton material was hacked by Russians -both unproven, and that Stone knew his co-conspirator, Assange, would leak Russian-hacked documents on Clinton, if Stone were a Russian colluder, wasn’t it stupid of him to announce the existence of a conspiracy between himself, Assange and the “Russians” on the radio?
Did his penchant for media spotlight overcome his awareness that he needed to conceal the existence of a Russian collusion conspiracy in which he was involved?
The more relevant question is – is Mueller conveniently and knowingly misinterpreting evidence of a criminal conspiracy, or some other federal crime, based on Stone’s boastful radio comments – to legitimize to the public that this investigation actually concerns Russians?
If so, that would make Mueller’s investigation of Stone entirely cynical, especially if this investigation is not really about Russian interference at all.
The difficulty Mueller has is if it is false, if Mueller is perpetrating a fraud on the American people, Roger Stone might be the one man who can prove it.