Trump Adviser Roger Stone Charged as Part of Mueller Investigation

Roger Stone appears in federal court in Florida and is released on $250,000 bond

A longtime political adviser to President Trump, Roger Stone, was arrested in Florida early Friday on charges of lying to Congress about his contacts with the website WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, in the latest indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

In an indictment returned in Washington on Thursday, Mr. Stone was also charged with obstructing an official proceeding and trying to persuade a witness to lie to investigators.

In a CNN interview Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said of the indictment, “This has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House.” She declined to respond to questions about whether Mr. Trump had directed a campaign official to contact Mr. Stone about what releases WikiLeaks had planned.

.. The 24-page indictment accuses Mr. Stone of lying to the House intelligence committee in May 2017 when he testified he had no documents or records relevant to the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and later when he testified in September 2017.

.. Mr. Stone had numerous emails and text messages dated to 2016 in which he discussed information possessed by WikiLeaks, the website U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to the indictment and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Stone had also discussed his efforts to contact Julian Assange

.. The indictment alleges that on July 22, 2016, after WikiLeaks released a trove of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, a senior Trump campaign official “was directed to contact” Mr. Stone about any further releases the website had planned and to learn “what other damaging information” the organization had about the Clinton campaign. The indictment doesn’t specify who directed the official to contact Mr. Stone.

Five days later, Mr. Trump made a public plea: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” referring to Mrs. Clinton’s email server

.. According to the indictment, on Oct. 3, 2016, Mr. Stone sent an email to a “supporter involved with the Trump Campaign” that read: “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”

.. That same day, a reporter at Breitbart, whose chairman was also Trump campaign chief executive Steve Bannon, emailed Mr. Stone to ask about Mr. Assange’s plans. The reporter asked, “What’s he got? Hope it’s good.” Breitbart isn’t identified by name in the indictment, but a person familiar with the emails confirmed the exchange.

.. Mr. Stone replied, “It is. I’d tell [Mr. Bannon] but he doesn’t call me back.” In the indictment, Mr. Bannon is referred to as a “high-ranking Trump Campaign official.”

The next day, according to the indictment, Mr. Stone responded to an email from Mr. Bannon and told him that WikiLeaks would release “a load every week going forward.”

On Oct. 7, when WikiLeaks released the first set of emails on the same day that the Washington Post published the “Access Hollywood” tape recording of Mr. Trump making lewd comments about women—an associate of Mr. Bannon texted Mr. Stone: “Well done,” according to the indictment.

Later, Mr. Stone claimed credit in conversations with Trump campaign officials for “having correctly predicted” the Oct. 7 release, the indictment said.

The indictment alleges Mr. Stone had asked two people to pass on a request to Mr. Assange for documents potentially damaging to the Clinton campaign.

In one July 2016 email, he asked his contact to “get to” Mr. Assange and “get the pending” emails, the indictment said. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported Mr. Stone sent such an email to conservative activist Jerome Corsi.

The Presidency or Prison

What happens if re-election is Trump’s best hope of avoiding an indictment?

Donald Trump — or, as he’s known to federal prosecutors, Individual-1 — might well be a criminal. That’s no longer just my opinion, or that of Democratic activists. It is the finding of Trump’s own Justice Department.

.. . The prosecutors argued that, in arranging payoffs to two women who said they’d had affairs with Trump, Cohen broke campaign finance laws, and in the process “deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.

.. “While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” prosecutors wrote.

.. In other words, lawyers from the Justice Department have concluded that Trump may have committed a felony that went to the heart of the process that put him in office.

.. Trump’s potential criminality in this case, which raises questions about his legitimacy as president, creates a dilemma for Democrats. Assuming prosecutors are right about Trump’s conduct, it certainly seems impeachable; a situation in which a candidate cheats his way into the presidency is one the founders foresaw when they were designing the impeachment process. As George Mason argued at the Constitutional Convention, “Shall the man who has practiced corruption, and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?”

.. But in our current moment, removing the president through impeachment is essentially impossible, given that at least 20 Senate Republicans would have to join Democrats. Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who will soon lead the House Judiciary Committee, told me he wouldn’t consider impeachment proceedings without at least some Republican support. 

.. Experts on both the left and the right believe that if Trump is voted out of office in 2020, before the five-year statute of limitations on campaign finance violations runs out, he could find himself in serious legal jeopardy.

.. The 2020 presidential election was always going to be extraordinarily ugly, but one can only imagine what Trump will do if the alternative to the White House is the big house. “It’s dangerous,” said Swalwell, who worries that Trump could become even more erratic, making decisions to save himself that involve “our troops or internal domestic security.”

.. Ordinarily, you know that a democracy is failing when electoral losers are threatened with prison. But Trump’s lawlessness is so blatant that impunity — say, a pardon, or a politically motivated decision not to prosecute — would also be deeply corrosive, unless it was offered in return for his resignation.
.. as long as Individual-1 is on the ticket, the 2020 election is set to be a banana republic-style death match. Trump will almost certainly try to criminalize his opponent — crowds at his rallies have taken to chanting “Lock her up” at the mention of virtually any Democratic woman’s name. And Democrats won’t be able to uphold the general principle that in American elections, losing doesn’t mean personal ruination, because for Trump it will and it should.
.. There are ways to lower the stakes somewhat. Nadler told me he plans to introduce legislation that would freeze the statute of limitations for crimes committed by presidents, so they could be charged when their terms end. Such a law would at least mean that Trump couldn’t evade justice forever just by winning re-election.
.. That would mitigate the peril to our democracy, but it wouldn’t come close to eliminating it. Our best hope may lie in the emergence of irrefutable evidence of further presidential crimes, enough to finally test the tolerance of at least some fraction of Republicans.
.. After two years of hearing people say we were all trigger-happy on impeachment, now I’m hearing we’re all constitutional fraidy-cats. Give us a chance to do the fact investigation and figure out what happened.”
.. But if the president has committed felonies, we also have to figure out how Republicans might be induced to care.

Trump Seethes, and the Rest of Us Should Tremble

“An attack on our country.”

.. But a lawful raid on his attorney’s office and hotel room is what prompted the president to use those immensely weighted words. They’re a signal — make that a siren — of how cornered he feels, how monstrously large his belief in his own persecution has grown and what a perilous situation America is in.

.. Some unrelated swipe at perceived enemies or random assertion of potency by a man who cannot bear any image of impotence and is always ginning up distractions, as both a matter of strategy and a function of temperament?

.. He was telling us, yet again, not to trust our own government. And he was reminding us, in shocking fashion, about his readiness to sell (and buy) fictions if they serve his self-interest, which he reliably puts before all else.

.. Even though Cohen is the apparent focus of their interest, Trump, too, must feel hideously exposed. This is a man who refused, despite intense pressure, to release his tax returns

.. Now information that may be much more private, and much more damning, is in strangers’ hands.

.. Trump, during a meeting that was supposed to be about Syria, went on and on about the “disgrace” (he used that word seven times) of Mueller’s investigation

.. It was the full martyr complex and all the greatest hits in one meltdown. Mike Pence sat stone-faced on one side of him, John Bolton without much expression on the other. It’s hard to imagine either of them having the rapport with Trump to calm him down.

.. There is no Hope Hicks anymore, no Rob Porter, no Gary Cohn, no H. R. McMaster: The ranks of people who either gave Trump a sense of comfort and stability or sought to steer him away from his most destructive impulses have thinned. He’s more alone than ever. He must be more frightened, too.

But not half as scared as the rest of us should be.