“Was directed”? Naturally, you’re thinking, “was directed by whom?” By Trump? Could be . . . Stone says it was not, but who knows? The point, however, is not who did the directing but why it was thought necessary to reach out to Stone. The Trump campaign had to ask Stone because it was in the dark.
.. Plainly, the campaign was not involved in the hacking, so it did not know what the Russians gave Assange. And it had no involvement with WikiLeaks’ operations, so it turned to Stone, who had held himself out as a knowledgeable source. But Stone, too, was unsure. Mueller alleges: “STONE thereafter told the Trump campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [WikiLeaks]” (emphasis added). The prosecutor has to say “potential” because Stone did not have solid knowledge of Assange’s intentions — he tried to find out from others (including Credico, who had contact with Assange), but they did not know for sure exactly what Assange had and whether or when he would publish it.
.. 1. It is standard government practice never to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
2. This is especially true of counterintelligence investigations, which target foreign powers, not individuals, and which are classified.
Stone is hardly a Bond villain come to life, but the allegations against him are one part of a bigger picture that doesn’t reflect well on the Trump campaign.
.. I posited a different theory: The Trump campaign wasn’t a collection of criminal masterminds — would masterminds rely on the likes of Stone and Corsi to conduct international espionage? — but an ad-hoc mix of comically inept crooks and grifters who were seeking to gain any advantage they could and have spent the years since lying to cover their tracks.
.. The Stone indictment advances my theory considerably. He is not alleged to have established any kind of ongoing, close working relationship with Julian Assange. Instead, he used intermediaries to squeeze out bits and pieces of information from WikiLeaks. He allegedly shared some of that information with the campaign, and then — when the special counsel’s investigation started — appears to have engaged in some of the most inept lying and witness intimidation I’ve ever seen. He denied the existence of documents that he should have known investigators would possess, and his threats to witnesses were almost cartoonish. In one paragraph, the indictment alleges he referred to a plan inspired by the movie Godfather II. In another paragraph, the indictment alleges that he threatened a witness’s dog.
..A combination of special-counsel indictments, guilty pleas, and reproduced emails has now shown that, despite their insistent, repeated denials of contact with Russians, Trump-campaign officials (including the campaign chair and the candidate’s son and son-in-law) were eager to meet with Russians to obtain damaging information on Hillary Clinton, were asking Roger Stone to connect with WikiLeaks — a reputed Russian asset — for information about its data dumps, and shared polling data with another reputed Russian asset. What’s more, we now know that Trump’s real-estate business continued to discuss a significant development deal in Moscow with Russians (including a Kremlin official) deep into the 2016 campaign.
Roger Stone has always lived in a dog-eat-dog world.
So it was apt that he was charged with skulduggery in part for threatening to kidnap a therapy dog, a fluffy, sweet-faced Coton de Tuléar, belonging to Randy Credico, a New York radio host.
Robert Mueller believes that Credico, a pal of Julian Assange, served as an intermediary with WikiLeaks for Stone. Mueller’s indictment charges that Stone called Credico “a rat” and “a stoolie” because he believed that the radio host was not going to back up what the special counsel says is Stone’s false story about contacts with WikiLeaks, which disseminated Russia’s hacked emails from the D.N.C. and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Stone emailed Credico that he would “take that dog away from you,” the indictment says, later adding: “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die (expletive).”
As the owner of two Yorkies, Stone clearly knows how scary it is when a beloved dog is in harm’s way. When he emerged from court on Friday, he immediately complained that F.B.I. agents had “terrorized” his dogs when they came to arrest him at dawn at his home in Fort Lauderdale.
.. Always bespoke and natty, living by the mantra that it’s better to be infamous than never famous, Stone looked strangely unadorned as he came out of court to meet the press in a navy polo shirt and bluejeans.
He has always said Florida suited him because “it was a sunny place for shady people,” borrowing a Somerset Maugham line. But now the cat’s cradle of lies and dirty tricks had tripped up the putative dognapper. And it went down on the very same day that Paul Manafort — his former associate in a seamy lobbying firm with rancid dictators as clients, and then later his pal in the seamy campaign of Donald Trump — was also in federal court on charges related to the Mueller probe. Manafort’s hair is now almost completely white.
.. One of Stone’s rules — along with soaking his martini olives in vermouth and never wearing a double-breasted suit with a button-down collar — is “Deny, deny, deny.” But his arrest for lying, obstructing and witness tampering raised the inevitable question about his on-and-off friend in the White House, the man who is the last jigsaw-puzzle piece in the investigation of Trumpworld’s alleged coordination with Russia: Is being Donald Trump finally about to catch up with Donald Trump?
Stone, who famously has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, is the agent provocateur who is the through line from Nixon, and his impeachment, to Trump, and his possible impeachment.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III asked the House Intelligence Committee on Friday for an official transcript of Trump adviser Roger Stone’s testimony, according to people familiar with the request, a sign that prosecutors could be moving to charge him with a crime.
.. Securing an official transcript from the committee would be a necessary step before pursuing an indictment that Stone allegedly lied to lawmakers, legal experts said.
.. The special counsel could use the threat of a false-statement charge to seek cooperation from Stone, as Mueller has done with other Trump advisers, such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn and longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen... For weeks, the special counsel’s office has had access to an unofficial copy of Stone’s closed-door September 2017 interview, according to people with knowledge of the process. Mueller’s request of the official copy signals the special counsel could now be pursuing an indictment, several legal experts said... Stone accused House Democrats of “attempting to play frivolous word games, and hairsplitting about semantics over nonmaterial matters.”
Stone added: “Where is the evidence of Russian collusion or WikiLeaks collaboration?”
.. Stone, who boasted during the race that he was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has said since that his past comments were exaggerated or misunderstood. Both he and WikiLeaks have adamantly denied they were in contact.
.. As part of that review, ODNI shares copies of the transcripts with other agencies, including the special counsel’s office, that might have an interest in protecting information in the interviews, officials said.
However, because the Stone interview was conducted in executive session, the transcript officially belongs to the committee and may not be released unless authorized by the committee, according to its rules.
.. Stone released written testimony he provided the House Intelligence Committee before his September 2017 interview, in which he wrote that he had no “advanced knowledge of the source or actual content of the WikiLeaks disclosures regarding Hillary Clinton.”
.. He told the panel that he based some of his predictions on public information and tips from associates. He also said that he had an intermediary who provided him with information about WikiLeaks — but refused to name the person, indicating the person was a journalist with whom he had spoken off the record.
.. Shortly after his closed-door appearance, Stone wrote a letter to the committee saying he learned about WikiLeaks’s planned release from Randy Credico, a New York comedian who had interviewed Assange and is a longtime friend of New York attorney Margaret Ratner Kunstler, who has represented WikiLeaks.
Credico has repeatedly denied passing any information from WikiLeaks to Stone. He said he may have speculated about the group’s tactics with Stone.
.. Stone has released numerous text messages that he says prove he was relying on Credico for information about the upcoming Wikileaks release of material damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In one of them Credico, who boasts of being best friends with Assange’s attorney, asserts that the Wikileaks founder will make an announcement soon. In another the comic writes: “Hillary’s campaign will die this week.”
.. In recent weeks, Mueller’s prosecutors have been focused on another Stone associate who alerted him to an upcoming WikiLeaks release in 2016: conservative writer Jerome Corsi.
In an Aug. 2, 2016, email, Corsi wrote to Stone that the group planned to disclose emails that October that would embarrass Clinton, according to charging documents drafted by Mueller’s team and provided to The Washington Post.
.. “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” Corsi wrote in the email quoted in the draft document, referring to Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London since 2012. “One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”
.. Corsi, who rejected a plea offer from the special counsel, said the email was based on his speculation of what WikiLeaks might be planning, not any inside knowledge.
.. The day after receiving the message from Corsi, Stone has said, he spoke with Trump by phone.
.. Stone has said he never discussed WikiLeaks or hacked emails with Trump. “Unless Mueller has tape recordings of the phone calls, what would that prove?” he told The Post last month.
.. “The emails prove nothing,” Stone added, “other than like every other politico and political reporter in America, I was curious to know what it was that WikiLeaks had.”
.. Over the past several months, Mueller’s investigators have interviewed a dozen Stone friends and associates, focusing on individuals who discussed WikiLeaks with Stone before to the election. Some have provided testimony and records that contradict Stone’s claims.
.. Charles Ortel, a Wall Street analyst and conservative writer, told The Post that he was interviewed in New York last week by two FBI agents who asked about his 2016 contacts with Stone, Corsi and Credico.
Ortel said the agents were interested in an email from then-Fox News reporter James Rosen that Ortel forwarded to Stone on July 25, 2016. In it, Rosen wrote, “Am told WikiLeaks will be doing a massive dump of HRC emails relating to the CF in September,” referring to Clinton and her family foundation.
Ortel declined to disclose the full details of his FBI interview but told The Post that he did not know where Rosen had gotten his information about WikiLeaks’s plans.
Rosen, who no longer works at Fox News, has repeatedly declined to comment.
.. In written questions posed to the president earlier this year, Mueller sought information from Trump about his interactions with Stone and whether they discussed WikiLeaks.
According to people familiar with Trump’s responses, the president said he had no prior knowledge of what the group was going to do and that Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks’s plans.
.. In recent days, however, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani was less definitive.
“Did Roger Stone ever give the president a heads-up on WikiLeaks’s leaks concerning Hillary Clinton and the DNC?” ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos asked him Sunday.
“No, I don’t believe so,” Giuliani said. “But again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads-up about WikiLeaks’s leaks, that’s not a crime . . . collusion is not a crime.”