By Chuck Ross
The special counsel’s indictment of Roger Stone contains no allegation of a conspiracy to collude with Russia or to steal emails from Democrats, and appears to undercut some of the logic behind Democrats’ collusion narrative.
Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was indicted Friday on seven counts: five counts of lying to Congress, one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of a government proceeding.
Special counsel Robert Mueller accuses Stone, a longtime political operative, of lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his communication with Trump campaign officials and other associates regarding WikiLeaks, which released emails that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. (RELATED: Mueller Indicts Roger Stone)
The question of why Stone may have lied to Congress looms large over the indictment. Stone’s critics are likely to accuse him of lying to protect Trump, his longtime friend. But the indictment, which was handed down under seal Thursday, cuts against the prevalent theory that the Trump campaign conspired directly with Russians to steal and release Democrats’ emails.
Stone, who was arrested Friday morning during an FBI raid on his residence in Florida, is not accused of conspiring with Russia or WikiLeaks to hack and release emails stolen from Democrats. The indictment also makes no allegation that Stone had contact with Russians or knew that Russia was behind the hacks of DNC and Podesta emails.
Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on July 13, 2018 for hacking Democrats’ emails and using WikiLeaks to release the documents. Stone has disputed claims that Russia was behind the hacks.
Stone is also not accused of having contact with WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange or of lying to Congress in his Sept. 26, 2017 testimony when he denied having any such contact. After being arraigned in federal court in Florida, Stone proclaimed his innocence and said he has been “falsely accused” of lying to Congress. He denied colluding with Russia or WikiLeaks and said he will plead not guilty to the special counsel’s charges.
The collusion cloud has hung over the Trump White House for more than two years.
The most prominent allegation is found in the Steele dossier, the unverified report financed by the DNC and Clinton campaign and published by BuzzFeed in January 2017.
The dossier alleges that the Trump campaign conspired directly with Russian operatives to release emails stolen from Democrats.
Russian operatives gave emails to WikiLeaks in order to create “plausible deniability,” according to the dossier. The alleged conspiracy was “conducted with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team,” it said.
The dossier also claims that the campaign planned the release of DNC emails in order to swing supporters of Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont away from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“This objective had been conceived and promoted, inter alia, by TRUMP’s foreign policy adviser Carter Page,” the dossier said.
Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, also alleged that Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Trump at the time, traveled to Prague in August 2016 in order to make “deniable cash payments” to hackers who had stolen Democrats’ emails.
Both Page and Cohen have vehemently denied the dossier’s allegations.
Mueller’s indictment stops far short of accusing Stone or others on the campaign of proactively hacking emails or directing them toward WikiLeaks. One question is why the Trump campaign would ask Stone to find out what information WikiLeaks had if Trump associates were directly involved in a scheme to hack and disseminate Democrats’ emails, as the dossier alleges.
Grant Smith, an attorney for Stone, responded to the indictment, saying it showed collusion did not occur.
“They couldn’t find collusion, so they’re trying to get him on an immaterial charge,” Smith told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It goes without saying, Roger is going to fight this.”
Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, echoed that statement.
“The indictment today does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else. Rather, the indictment focuses on alleged false statements made to Congress,” Sekulow said in a statement.
Andrew McCarthy, a former U.S. attorney and columnist for National Review, said on Fox News:
“I read that indictment, and what it says to me is that the special counsel and the FBI have known for at least a year, probably much longer than that that there is no espionage conspiracy and there was none between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.”
Andy McCarthy: "I read that indictment, and what it says to me is that the special counsel and the FBI have known for at least a year, probably much longer than that that there is no espionage conspiracy and there was none between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign"
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) January 25, 2019
The indictment does raise questions about who within the Trump campaign was aware of Stone’s efforts to make contact with WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors allege that while Stone spoke with “multiple” Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks, he falsely denied doing so during his House testimony. Stone also made false statements about two of his associates, Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi, with whom he discussed WikiLeaks’ plans to release Clinton-related emails, according to the indictment.
The indictment suggests that campaign officials did not kickstart the effort. Instead, it was Stone who began telling “senior Trump campaign officials” in June and July 2016 that he had information related to the group.
Stone has noted that Assange had said publicly as early as June 2016 that WikiLeaks had Clinton emails. He repeated that claim throughout the summer.
After the July 22, 2016 release of DNC emails, the indictment says that a “senior Trump Campaign official” was directed to contact Stone to find out more about the materials WikiLeaks had.
The campaign officials are not identified in the indictment. Smith told TheDCNF that he did not know who was being referenced.
Stone is a former business partner of Paul Manafort, who served as chairman of the Trump campaign. Stone was also in contact with Trump himself.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of House Intelligence, said Friday that he will focus squarely on the campaign officials.
“Most significant in the Stone indictment is new info that a senior campaign official was ‘directed’ in July 2016 to contact Mr. Stone about additional Wikileaks releases,” Schiff said in a statement. “This was at same time candidate Trump was publicly calling for Russia’s help in obtaining Clinton’s emails,” the Democrat added.
Stone is also accused of lying to Congress about his interactions with Credico and Corsi.
Stone has claimed that Credico was his sole back channel to WikiLeaks. The pair exchanged text messages that show Credico, a left-wing activist who was friends with a WikiLeaks lawyer, provided tips about WikiLeaks’ plans to release Clinton documents.
But Stone failed to tell Congress about communication he had with Corsi about WikiLeaks. He asked Corsi, a right-wing author, on July 25, 2016 to try to make contact with Assange.
Stone has said he sent that email after receiving information that originated with a Fox News reporter who claimed to have heard that WikiLeaks was planning to release Clinton Foundation documents.
Corsi has claimed Mueller is trying to prove he passed Stone information he received from WikiLeaks. While Corsi has denied having any contact with WikiLeaks or Assange, he has said he developed a theory in August 2016 that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails. He asserts he told Stone about his theory in early August 2016. Stone has denied the claim.
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