In the very early hours of January 25th, as the sun was about to rise over Fort Lauderdale, Florida, federal agents waited outside the house of Roger Stone. Armed with AR-15s and kitted out in flak jackets, they stormed the home and arrested Stone on charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to investigators.
So, who is this man, who merited the full force of the FBI? A political consultant, lobbyist and strategist since the 70s, Stone is among the most recognizable DC faces to have never run for public office. He has, since the age of twenty, assisted in the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole, proving himself a skilled dirt-digger with a talent for undermining political opponents.
However, His most recent endeavour (and the one for which he is now paying the price) was his participation in the early stages of Donald Trump’s dubious 2016 presidential campaign. Friday’s raid makes him the latest casualty in Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the election, but for what action is he himself being indicted?
Although he has since posted bail (to the sum of $250,000), Stone has been charged with seven counts, and will appears in court on 29th January 2019, relating to his communication and cooperation with Wikileaks and the hacking of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016. Five of these charges come against his false testimony to the House select committee during their 2017 investigation into the election. He claimed that he possessed no relevant documents to their inquiry, had never sought communication with Julian Assange, and had never discussed his Wikileaks contacts with anyone in the Trump team.
All these claims have since been proved false.
As well as this, Stone is alleged to have intimidated Randy Credico, a New York radio host and intermediary between Stone and Assange, for not corroborating his story to the committee. On top of branding Credico ‘a rat,’ a ‘stoolie,’ and ‘an idiot,’ Stone also threatened to ‘take that dog away from you,’ a reference to Credico’s therapy dog. Naturally, this crossed the line for Mueller.
Despite facing up to 45 years in prison, Stone seems unphased, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the basis for the indictment is “as thin as p*** on a rock.” However, given Stone’s public boasts of his relations with Wikileaks as far back as 2016, his confidence may be unfounded, but he has told reporters that he will not rule out the possibility of cooperating with the Mueller investigation for a reduced sentence, which may prove his only option.
As for Trump’s fate in all this? Well, in the Nation over the weekend, John Nichols claimed, “It is safe to say that the impeachment clock is ticking faster.” However, I’d say this is simply hopefulness from the anti-Trump camp. Although Stone is the biggest catch of the Mueller investigation so far, and the first one directly linking the Trump campaign to Wikileaks and Russia, his links to Trump himself are not air-tight. Stone left the campaign (voluntarily or involuntarily, depending on who you ask) in its still nascent stages in August 2015 and most of the charges against him regard his own false testimony, something unrelated to the president. Stone also now joins Manafort, Flynn, Gates, and Cohen in the ever-growing list of presidential aides and associates that have been charged, indicted, pleaded guilty or been convicted and Trump has, so far, been able to weather this storm.
However, the president’s supporters are covering their tracks anyway, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders stating, during a White House press conference, that the charges against Stone have “nothing to do with the president.”
Nichols’ article was titled, ‘What did president Trump Know and When did he Know it?’ a reference to the key question asked in 1973 of Nixon and his knowledge of the Watergate scandal. Both for those attempting to protect the president and those intent on his impeachment, a lot now rests on proving his knowledge or ignorance of the nefarious acts that surrounded his election. Therefore, in an odd piece of partisan role reversal, the next few weeks will be taken up by his supporters attempting to convince the world of what his opponents have been claiming since he first ran for president - that Donald Trump knows nothing.