Roger Stone Lied. What Was He Hiding? … AND … If Trump Were Tony Soprano…

Could the Trump campaign really not have known that in dealing with WikiLeaks it was dealing with Russia?

Credit Illustration by Alex Merto; Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

 

In his indictment of the Trump torpedo Roger Stone, the special counsel Robert Mueller noted that on June 14, 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced “that it had been hacked by Russian government actors.”

According to the indictment, unsealed Friday, Mr. Stone participated in and helped conceal an effort by the Trump campaign to cooperate with WikiLeaks in publicizing thousands of emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, which was done to devastating political effect. Mr. Stone stands accused of obstructing an official proceeding, making multiple false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness.

Around June and July of 2016, the indictment says, Mr. Stone told “senior Trump campaign officials” that WikiLeaks possessed stolen emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s chances of being president. It released the first batch on July 22, roiling the Democratic National Convention, which began three days later.

Maybe Mr. Trump and his associates had no idea who stole the emails and did not connect this bonanza with “Russian government actors.”

Mr. Trump and his associates might have thought that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was just being a mischievous scamp, not passing along communications stolen by Russian intelligence, most of which came from the hacker Guccifer 2.0, an online persona created by Russian military intelligence officers. Mr. Stone said in 2017 that he had carried out “completely innocuous” private Twitter exchanges with Guccifer 2.0 during the presidential campaign.

But then why did Mr. Trump say, five days after the first WikiLeaks release, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

And might not the Trump circle have suspected that WikiLeaks was working with Russia after Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and the campaign chairman Paul Manafort met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with Russians who were peddling dirt on Mrs. Clinton?

And if Mr. Trump’s first F.B.I. intelligence briefing on Aug. 17, 2016, included a warning about Russian espionage, as NBC News reported in 2017, why didn’t Mr. Trump or anyone else in the campaign tell the agents about the meeting or the suspicious release of emails?

After the first WikiLeaks release, the indictment says, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed” — presumably by someone even more senior — to contact Mr. Stone about what dirt the group had on the Clinton campaign. If the Trump campaign had not known that it was getting dirt from Russia, why did George Papadopoulos, a campaign adviser whom Mr. Trump called “an excellent guy,” plead guilty to lying about his contact with a professor who said he had dirt from Russia on Mrs. Clinton? (Mr. Papadopoulos’s lawyer said his client had taken his cues from Mr. Trump, and that “the president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could.”)

Why did the former national security adviser Michael Flynn plead guilty to falsely telling the F.B.I. that he had not talked to the Russian ambassador about easing economic sanctions? And why did Mr. Trump craft a false story about the Trump Tower meeting, and falsely claim again and again that he had no business dealings with Russia even when his associates were negotiating with aides to President Vladimir Putin about a project in Moscow that could have earned him hundreds of millions of dollars?

Mr. Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon told the author Michael Wolff that he thought the Trump Tower meeting was “treasonous.” Yet he had no problem cooperating with WikiLeaks, according to the indictment. He is apparently the “high-ranking Trump Campaign official” who asked Mr. Stone on Oct. 4, 2016, about future WikiLeaks releases. Three days later, after the first stolen emails from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, were released, one of Mr. Bannon’s associates texted Mr. Stone, “well done.”

No one should jump to conclusions in this case. As president, Mr. Trump may have held himself to be above the law, but he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. For their part, the American people are entitled to some answers.

 

_____

If Trump Were Tony Soprano…

The gang that couldn’t conspire straight.

By Gail Collins

Opinion Columnist

Roger Stone arriving in 2017 for a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

Reading about the indictment of Donald Trump’s longtime pal Roger Stone, you can’t help thinking that we’ve got a president whose circle of associates closely resembles the guys Tony Soprano used to hang around with outside the pork shop in New Jersey.

Stone is a proud, self-proclaimed political dirty trickster. According to the Mueller indictment, he is also a witness tamperer who once threatened to kidnap the therapy dog of an associate who had been subpoenaed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

That’s not necessarily the most important part of the charges, but I knew you’d want to hear about it first. The witness is Randy Credico, a former radio personality who Stone said served as an intermediary between him and the WikiLeaks folk who released all those stolen Clinton campaign emails.

The indictment says Stone accused Credico of being “a rat. A stoolie” and warned that he would “rip you to shreds” and “take that dog away from you.”

Randy Credico heading to court in September with his therapy dog and his lawyer. Credit Tom Brenner for The New York Times

Credico has a little white emotional support dog named Bianca. Doesn’t this sound like something Paulie Walnuts would have done around “Sopranos” Season 4?

Moving on. The biggest news in the Mueller indictment was its charge that somebody told “a senior Trump campaign official” to contact Stone about any “damaging information” that WikiLeaks might have about the Clinton campaign. And that Stone reported back about stuff that just might be coming out in the near future.

Who do you think that Somebody could be? A person with receding hair and a taste for ultralong ties who recently kept the government shut for more than a month for no good reason whatsoever? Your guess is as good as mine.

And which senior campaign official do you think Somebody told to contact Stone? The former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, since convicted of financial fraud? Former campaign adviser Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I.? Former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, formerly in prison for lying to the F.B.I.?

How about lawyer Michael Cohen, now sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress? If Trump and the gang were a Sopranos remake, Cohen would be “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, who turned on Tony after being busted himself.

Really, there’s so much talent there, it could have been anybody.

Stone and Trump go way back. They were introduced about 40 years ago by their good mutual friend Roy Cohn, the guy who gave us the McCarthy witch hunts. Trump still burbles about how great Cohn was. And he enthused to a documentary interviewer that Stone is “a quality guy” who “always wanted me to run for president.”

Can’t get a better recommendation than that. Stone has a talent for identifying presidential talent — he’s got a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back. He was partners with Paul Manafort in a Washington lobbying firm that specialized in representing the most terrible dictators on the planet. If you had a million dollars, a need for support from the United States government and a small problem with torture, rape and terrorism, these were the guys to see.

(A third partner, Charlie Black, said that when reporters called him to ask if Stone was the connection between the Trump campaign and Russia, he replied, “With all due respect, Roger couldn’t find Russia on a map.” As always, when we’re considering possible crimes committed during the 2016 campaign, the best defense of Trump and his associates is that they were too dumb to be capable of plotting.)

“I’m proud of the job I did at Black Manafort and Stone because I made a lot of money,” Stone told those documentarians, getting right to the point.

Stone’s political career almost came to a crashing end in 1996 when he ran into a scandal that forced him to resign from the Bob Dole campaign. (The candidate was touchy about headlines like “Top Dole Aide Caught in Group Sex Ring.”) Stone blamed the story on a lying, disgruntled former employee. Later, he admitted that it was true, and explained that he needed to deny it because “my grandparents were still alive.”

But no matter, he would go on triumphantly to organize a wild protest that stopped the recount of votes after the Gore-Bush election in Florida. Or maybe not. Stone bragged that he was the guy who staged one of the most spectacular assaults on the democratic process in recent history, but there was competition for the title.

And then on to Donald Trump. He and Stone had worked on his political career for ages. (Although Stone doesn’t take credit for Trump’s Obama birther campaign, he’s said that he didn’t discourage the idea.) The two men parted company in 2015 — Stone claimed he’d quit because he was dismayed by Trump’s “provocative media fights.”

But then next thing you know we’re in 2016, and they’re pals again. Those Clinton campaign emails are stolen and released. According to Stone’s indictment: A “high-ranking Trump campaign official sent a text message to Stone that read ‘well done.’”

That would be a memorable moment. Not often when “well done” comes up in connection with the Trump crew.

 

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