If you woke up this morning and turned on the news you no doubt saw the only story anyone is talking about. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and in that darkness, the FBI showed up in force at the Florida home of Roger Stone, banged on the door with a warrant, cuffed him and took him into custody. We know this because there was a film crew waiting and they caught the whole thing on tape. (NY Post)
President Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone was arrested in Florida on Friday on charges of witness tampering, obstruction, giving false statements and other crimes.
FBI agents raided Stone’s Fort Lauderdale home about 6 a.m., according to CNN, which cited the 66-year-old’s lawyer.
Stone has been under scrutiny for months, but has maintained his innocence.
The talking heads at CNN are over the moon as I write this article. They quickly assembled a lineup of legal experts to attempt to show how this ties the Trump campaign to “Russian collusion” in some fashion. Stone may indeed be in trouble at this point, but there are a couple of features to this story worth considering.
First of all, the video footage of the agents showing up in Kevlar vests, shields and basically riot gear, was a “CNN exclusive.” Are we to believe that there was a CNN crew randomly hanging around Stone’s house at six in the morning? Somebody at the FBI tipped them off so they could be there, ready to capture the entire production. That’s a question somebody at the bureau should answer.
Second, Roger Stone has been questioned repeatedly and is represented by legal counsel. He doesn’t have any foreign citizenship that I can find a record of and he’s not exactly what you would picture as a flight risk. (That’s a pretty famous face to try to hide.) Why did the FBI need to go in all gangbusters and haul him out in the darkness like a mob boss? When other Trump associates were arrested, their attorneys were informed and they made arrangements to turn themselves in. Why not in this case?
CNN’s legal eagles are speculating this morning that the FBI must have either feared Stone would flee or that there might be vital evidence in the house and Stone might destroy it. I already addressed the flight risk idea and it seems dubious at best. And the destruction of evidence? Seriously? Stone has obviously known that law enforcement was looking at him as part of Mueller’s investigation for at least a year. He’s been called in for questioning repeatedly. If he had any physical or digital evidence in his house suggesting criminal activity, he either would have known to get rid of it or his lawyers would have told him to clean the place out long ago. If neither of those is the case then he’s a moron and needs a new team of attorneys.
Finally, what charges are they laying on Stone and how does that impact the Trump campaign and the President himself? This is another area where CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin was really swinging for the fences this morning. The actual charges they’ve listed thus far are the usual sort. There’s nothing suggesting that Stone committed any sort of crime himself initially but later may have either lied to investigators, influenced other witnesses or “obstructed the investigation” in some fashion. (It’s never the crime that gets you. It’s the coverup.)
Toobin was focusing on the dates when Stone allegedly told somebody in the Trump campaign that Wikileaks was about to release information that would be “the death of the Clinton campaign.” That message apparently went out before the public became aware of the trove of documents hacked from the DNC and Clinton’s people that Julian Assange went on to publish. So at least thus far, nobody seems to be suggesting that Stone hacked the documents himself or even participated in or coordinated the transfer of those documents. He knew in advance they were coming.
Remind me again how that adds up to Russian collusion? Assuming everything that’s been revealed in this investigation so far is true, some person or persons in Russia hacked the documents. Then they transferred them to Wikileaks, who went on to publish them for the world to see. (And as a reminder, news outlets everywhere – including CNN – did endless stories about the contents of those stolen documents.) At some point in that loop, Roger Stone became aware of what was coming and allegedly gave a heads up to his buddy (then candidate) Donald Trump or someone on his campaign team.
The original theft of the documents was certainly a crime. It’s conceivable that transferring them to Wikileaks involved a crime as well. But once the cat was out of the bag, those stolen emails and other documents basically became opposition research and were in the public domain. If you want to hang your hat on that chain of events as proof of “Russian collusion” on the part of the Trump campaign, you’ve got your work cut out for you at trial.
I don’t know at this point. Perhaps there’s more here than meets the eye and we’ll find out as the charges against Stone are fleshed out. But at the moment, this looks suspiciously like a made-for-TV production. Specifically made for CNN in this case.