Political strategist and consultant Roger Stone has been arrested and charged with a seven-count indictment, including lying to Congress and obstructing the Mueller probe. While this arrest was not unexpected, the range of charges certainly is. Yet, perhaps this is the first signal as to what the special counsel’s endgame might be.
Pundits and politicos had predicted that Stone would eventually be charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks and Russian interests for the hacking of Democratic emails that were published in July 2016. Yet this has not come to pass. Stone faces accusations that he obstructed the Russiagate investigation by making false statements regarding his interaction with the whistle-blower website.
Count One: Obstruction of Proceedings – This deals with Stone’s “falsely and misleadingly” testifying to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and lying about the existence of documents requested by the HSPCI.
Counts Two through Six – These counts outline false statements allegedly made by Stone whilst giving testimony. They include his denials that he possessed third-party emails relating to the DNC hack, that he had contacted a go-between, and that he communicated to people within the Trump campaign regarding the aforementioned emails.
Count Seven: Witness Tampering – Alleges that Stone attempted to persuade “person 2” (presumably the go-between) in order to influence, delay, and prevent this unnamed person’s testimony.
What the charges do not include are allegations that Stone himself had anything to do with either the procurement or release of the DNC emails.
Since Roger Stone’s name first came out in the public arena with questions attached to the Mueller investigation, he has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. He has also publicly mocked and denigrated the investigation, echoing President Trump’s words that it is merely a witch hunt being perpetrated by the special counsel’s team. He said previously:
“If their decision is made on the basis of facts or evidence, then nothing will happen. There is no evidence and no person that could honestly testify that I received anything, including allegedly hacked emails from the Russians, Guccifer 2.0, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Jerry Corsi, or anyone else, and passed it onto Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, or anyone else.”
And based on the indictment, his statement still appears true. He is not being charged with possessing or receiving hacked emails, not that he passed such information onwards.
Stone took it upon himself to try and shape the media narrative of his arrest before it even happened. He suggested that his efforts to give the hacked emails the coverage he felt they deserved had caused many within the establishment to assume something not factually true. “Some people just refuse to believe that I was able to bluff and posture and hype, using Twitter effectively to do it, drawing huge attention to disclosures when they finally came, without inside information,” he explained.
It is reasonable to ask how an indictment of Roger Stone will help the Mueller investigation in its initially stated aims. And this begs the further question of what Robert Mueller’s escape plan actually is?
Two years on, seven months since his last indictment, and very few smoke signals as to Donald Trump being implicated have left Mueller in an unenviable position. If he fails to find dirt on the president, he could be excluded from further career opportunities. The left will consider him ineffective, and the right will never forgive him for impacting their golden time, when they controlled both the House and the Senate.
Yet all is not lost for an ambitious man with an eye to the future. Should Mueller be able to tarnish irreparably almost every single person or organization that has shown favor towards the president, he will discourage others from providing support come 2020. And this is a gift worthy of reward to the Democrats.
Roger Stone may have lied. He may have tried to persuade others to lie on his behalf. But even this indictment does not suggest that he had access to either WikiLeaks or Russians intent on causing mayhem. He is just yet another pawn to be sacrificed as Mueller seeks to contruct a positive endgame for himself.