A jury found Stone guilty of 7 felony offenses: “he lied under oath, withheld a trove of documents and threatened an associate with harm if he cooperated with congressional investigators”. (NYT) He was ordered by the judge to report to prison on Tuesday, July 14, to begin his sentence. On Friday night, July 10th, Trump commuted his sentence.
Stone had been sending up smoke signals to Trump through his defense attorneys, Fox News favorites who are constantly yapping about the unfairness of what has befallen dirty trickster Roger Stone. Stone signaled Trump through an interview with Howard Fineman that he was ready for Trump’s highly anticipated intervention. There is also a veiled threat to Trump in that interview. Here is what Stone said to Howard Fineman:
“I had 29 or 30 conversations with Trump during the campaign period….He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t. They wanted me to play Judas. I refused.”
What Stone is telling the world, translated into plain English, is that 1) he communicated with Trump a lot during the campaign and 2) if he had cooperated with the FBI he could have brought Trump down. His statement carries an embedded threat to Trump because Stone COULD STILL have a lot to say about Trump’s involvement and knowledge when it comes to Russian interference to get him elected. He chose not to tell the truth to the feds in anticipation of the quid pro quo from Trump for his silence- a pardon or a commuted sentence. Trump had set up the quid pro quo by encouraging witnesses not to cooperate with his own Justice Department. Trump let it be known that if they refused to cooperate, he would reward them. And that’s what happened with Stone.
We know from the testimony at trial that Stone was in direct communication with both WikiLeaks (Julian Assange), and the Russian GRU which is directly under Putin’s control. Stone was the lynchpin or go-between Trump/Trump’s campaign and the Russians, and Trump/Trump’s campaign and Assange. Trump had conversations with Stone to get up to speed on what the Russians and Assange were up to and to condone and encourage the continuation of these efforts.
For example, we know from the testimony at trial that Trump was in a car with then campaign manager, Rick Gates, when a call came in to Trump from Stone. Gates recognized Stone’s voice and saw the caller ID. After the call was over, Trump was happy to report to Gates that an email dump was coming and he knew when. Michael Cohen also overheard a conversation between Trump and Stone informing him of the coming email dumps. Manafort also reported that Stone told him he was connected directly with Assange and Wikileaks. Bannon also heard that from Stone. This and other evidence from Stone’s trial was enough for the jury to find him guilty on 7 felony counts.
In the investigation phase, the prosecutors and investigators invited Stone to help himself out by “turning state’s evidence” to reduced his own sentence. The prosecution was asking Stone to tell them the truth about what Trump knew. The feds would have known if what Stone told them was truth or lies because at this point in the investigation they had corroborating evidence and could check the statements made by Stone against what they knew to be true.
This is what happens in a typical case involving a criminal enterprise. As a former Assistant US Attorney, our team of investigators would “flip” the members of the conspiracy who were involved in the crime, starting with people lower on the totem pole and working up to the boss. Stone was very high on the totem pole. He was one down from Trump, the boss. He was clearly acting at the direction of Trump himself. He would never have taken on such a role without Trump’s approval.
Stone tells us he refused to be a “Judas”. Here is where these guys flip the world upside down. Stone stayed loyal to Trump but Trump is the polar opposite of Jesus. In plain English, Stone was protecting criminal Trump from being outed as a co-conspirator who, once he became president, could return the favor and commute his sentence or pardon him. Which is exactly what came to pass.
This is the equivalent of a mob boss, who is known to be guilty based on the emerging evidence, suddenly turning out to be the presiding judge in his own case with the power to keep himself from going to jail by giving the man who could sink him, a commutation to keep him silent. Total corruption. All in plain view of the public. But no less corrupt for being done in the open.
Donald Trump may not have had a physical handshake that sealed the deal with the Russians that Mueller felt rose to a conspiracy, but Trump definitely knew the Russians and Assange were helping him to beat Clinton by engaging in a cyber-attack on the DNC and by strategically dumping emails to damage the Democrats. Trump not only knew what they were doing, he invited it, liked it, encouraged it and benefited from it. At one point in a rally in Florida Trump openly invited the Russians to search for Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails. And that night, the Russian GRU did just that. I frankly don’t know why that is not evidence of a conspiracy with Trump as a willing and engaged co-conspirator. If Roger Stone had told the investigators the truth about Trump, Trump’s facade of innocence would have been destroyed. In short, Stone saved Trump’s ass and Trump returned the favor. In his interview with Fineman, Stone told Trump that it was time for his reward: a get out of jail free card before having to go to jail.
If you think this outcome is a good one, you have to be on the side of the bad guys who broke the law. You have to like that the criminals got away with putting one over not only on the FBI and the prosecutors but the American public that believes this lying president (who has lied over 20,000 times now.) Mob boss Trump became president by cheating and by cheating even more he evaded the consequences for his criminal activities that led to his presidency.
The Constitution says that the pardon power is limited only in one way- to stop a criminal president from pardoning his partners in crime which is the circumstance here with Trump. There is an exception to the power “in cases of impeachment”. The meaning of the word “impeachment” here refers to corrupt motive. This commutation was illegal, invalid and unconstitutional because Trump was commuting the sentence to shield himself from criminal liability. See Corey Brettschneider’s article in The Atlantic on the subject: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/traditional-interpretation-pardon-power-wrong/614083/
Mueller failed to pin the conspiracy on Trump only because Trump did so well at obstructing justice and once he got the presidency, he lined up his protectors including AG Barr who will live in infamy as the guy who not only protected Trump but, wait for this…is poised to attack Trump’s detractors with bogus criminal investigations. Spoiler alert. This is coming. I expect that is coming before the election. Barr has gotten rid of the US Attorneys who stood up for truth and did not protect Trump and replaced them with Trump loyalists except for the SDNY, so far. (Berman forced Barr to follow the rules and elevate his next in line.) Barr has eliminated threats to Trump in EDNY and DC circuits. Just wait. The next step will be to go after Trump’s detractors with phony investigations.
Trump commuted Stone’s sentence to keep up the pretense that he is clean when he is dirty. Stone helped him perpetuate the lie that Trump peddles to his true believers. Stone will presumably return the favor by keeping Trump’s dirty secrets forever secret. If Trump had not commuted Stone’s sentence, the threat was there that Stone could rat him out at any time. He still could.
Make no mistake about it– Trump is guilty. This commutation is proof. If he were innocent, Stone would not have needed to protect him and stonewall for him, risking jail. Trump is guilty because if he were innocent he would not have needed to commute Stone’s sentence to avoid the risk that Stone would tell the truth to the world. Stone has power over Trump now to blackmail him. If you had any doubt before about Trump’s guilt, it’s game over. This commutation is the final nail in that coffin.
Mitt Romney’s tweet summarizes what just happened:
Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.