Loose Ends as the Stone Trial Moves to Closing Arguments
Somewhat unexpectedly, the government announced this morning it would rest after testimony from Rick Gates and the FBI Agent, Michelle Taylor. My overall take is that Stone is likely to be found guilty on a number of the false statements charges, though may skate on witness tampering. But that nevertheless will be a win for him, because he has been playing for a pardon, not acquittal, and he retreated to a new cover story — that he had no intermediary with WikiLeaks — which is what Trump needed him to say. I think the smartest thing Stone has done in the last several years was not to take the stand and I half wonder whether prosecutors tried to bait him to do so by finishing early.
Stone filed for an acquittal, which is fairly normal. By my read, it misstated the indictment, pretending that Stone was accused of lying about having an interlocutor with WikiLeaks rather than lying about who his was (which, again, serves his goal of getting a pardon). Amy Berman Jackson seemed to adhere to my reading as well, noting that none of the charges require that Stone actually have an interlocutor (though she did warn prosecutors they need to be very specific about what language in the transcript they’re saying are lies). Nevertheless, ABJ reserved judgment on that motion.
I’ll say more about what I think really went down once the final exhibits are released to journalists and after closing arguments tomorrow.
But I wanted to capture a number of loose threads from the trial (and this is based off live tweeting, so it’s more vague than I would wish):
- Prosecutors made sure to get Steve Bannon to explain the relationship between Ted Malloch and Erik Prince and the campaign, yet Prince did not testify and Malloch’s testimony wasn’t entered. So why include that detail?
- The government tried to enter Bannon’s grand jury testimony, unsuccessfully, after he had to be held to his prior testimony. Was there a discrepancy or a different articulation prosecutors were trying to hold him to?
- Footnote 989 of Volume I of the Mueller Report seems to suggest that Bannon’s testimony came in under a proffer agreement (and his first interview clearly stretched the truth). But that proffer did not get introduced into evidence. Why not?
- The defense did not raise the most obvious challenge to Gates’ testimony, that his claim Stone knew of hacked emails in April 2016 might represent a confusion with Hillary’s FOIAed emails. Since they could only make this argument with Gates’ testimony, I’m curious why they didn’t raise it.
- The defense spent a lot of time talking to Gates about Stone’s role in compiling voter rolls. Why?
- Prosecutors named a bunch of Stone’s flunkies as witnesses, and subpoenaed and flew in Andrew Miller. They seem to have first informed Miller he’d be testifying at what would be the end of a full week trial (what they initially said they expected), then held him through Stone’s defense, suggesting they might use him as a rebuttal witness. But he never testified. Why not?
- The government never presented something they had planned to as 404b information — that Stone also lied about whether the campaign knew of his campaign finance shenanigans. They didn’t do so. Why not? (This may related to the Miller question.)
- Prosecutors made a point of having Gates describe Stone asking for Jared Kushner’s contact so he could brief him on stolen emails. But that point was dropped. That loose end is particularly interesting given that they had Bannon testify about the July 18 email Stone sent him, which probably pertains to an investigation that was ongoing in March.
Update: I’ve reviewed the acquittal motion and actually think Stone may win on this point:
COUNT 6 – FALSE STATEMENT
STONE testified falsely that he had never discussed his conversations with the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” with anyone involved in the Trump Campaign.
Evidence as to Count 6 suffers from the same infirmity as Counts 4 and 5. The count fails because of the government’s failure to prove the conversations with the Trump Campaign contained, or specifically related to, information Mr. Stone received from Mr. Credico. There was no evidence presented that any of the information was not already available in the public domain. Furthermore, there was no evidence presented that the conversation were about, or relating to, Russian interference. “And did you discuss your conversations with the intermediary with anyone involved in the Trump campaign?” HPSCI transcript, at 102 (emphasis added). No, the conversation had nothing to do with Randy Credico. Even if, arguendo, Stone spoke to a Campaign official, Bannon, Trump, or if Stone had non-public information from an intermediary, but did not cite to Credico in those communications, then the answer is not false. The government must live with the imprecise wording of Count VI.
Stone absolutely did lie about speaking to Trump people about what he knew about WikiLeaks. But in doing so, as far as we know, he always attributed his information to Assange directly, not to Credico or Corsi (though I’m fairly certain he could prove that he gave Corsi credit). So I actually think that’s why ABJ reserved on this front: because Stone is right. The government fucked up the wording on this.
This in-depth coverage of Stone has been great, so in-depth that I haven’t read it all but that’s on me, you are nailing it.
Is “Empty Wheel” a Buddhist thing? Just curious
[Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your 7th user name; your last one used in October was ‘Goodgulf’. Stick to the same name or risk being banned for sockpuppeting. Thanks. /~Rayne]
if my intent were to deceive, I would use a different email address each time
but I appreciate your desire to create a community and will stick with el Tigre
honestly, I had to look up sockpuppeting
and Stone is guilty on all counts, Allah be praised
Yes, there are so many curious loose ends from Stone’s trial. I wonder if something happened very recently that we don’t know about. Maybe things are moving along behind the scenes.
In any event, I’m pretty sure some of you know about the following new twist in events from this never ending saga:
“Russian propaganda’s effect on 2016 election worse than previously understood: Federal prosecutors” -November 12, 2019
“Prosecutors are updating the charges against Russians who blasted social media propaganda at American voters in the 2016 election.”
“John Demers, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s national security division, and Jessie Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, intend to issue a superseding indictment against those foreign individuals who interfered in the election won by President Donald Trump.”
Meanwhile, AG Barr is scribbling away trying to produce a report that will undercut the significance of the evidence his own people have uncovered re: Russian sabotage of the 2016 election.
I have to confess that I’m eager to see what he comes up with. His description of the Mueller report was technically accurate but totally misleading. Anyone following the investigation realized immediately that Barr was being a weasel. The MSM largely bought it, though. In this case, he has the power to selectively declassify information, so he can cherry-pick exactly what he wants to put in the report, and there’s no one like Mueller to push back against him.
Well, I still think he’ll have to pick a helluva lot of cherries to outweigh the evidence that Mueller and his team uncovered.
The superseding indictment has been in the works for a month. THe govt is doing it to clean up language given a ruling Friedrich made.
I had my wishful thinking hat on. I was hoping for more. Thanks for taking the time to clarify.
Are the loose ends a sign of prosecutorial cleverness or prosecutorial incompetence?
It’s a sign they decided to hide some of their most damning material.
Why would that decision be made?
Because they don’t need it to win this conviction and they’re still using it.
Also, the prosecution is operating after the lessons learned from Manafort’s trials (like when Manafort shared everything he could get from the prosecution with 45.) Also, in Manafort’s VA trial there was reportedly a single holdout juror who agreed to convict [arbitrarily] only on some counts because that juror felt that Manafort was indeed guilty, but the prosecution was too heavy handed. Surely now in this case, the prosecution wants to keep things as simple as possible to enable the jury to return a guilty verdict.
Imagine that the rest of your life depended on Donald Trump doing something that brought nothing of value to Donald Trump.
Well , Mr Trump DOES *promise* ……………………………….
[Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Jim” including one of our contributors. Thanks. /~Rayne]
On October 22, 2019 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied the petition for a writ of mandamus by Stone (and his family) to quash ABJ’s gag order. Nothing about the legal conclusions in the decision was in any way novel or surprising (because absent extraordinary circumstances that require a writ to correct an injustice that truly shocks the conscience, a writ of mandamus cannot be granted for relief that could have been obtained earlier, through appeal.) But, there is one thing noteworthy about the decision issued by the appeals court. The undisputed facts of the case begin:
“Roger Stone is a political consultant who has worked in U.S. politics for decades. During the 2016 presidential
campaign, Stone served as an official for then-candidate Donald J. Trump’s campaign.” Despite Mueller’s obsession with precision of language and well-placed respect for the power bestowed on the presidency, our independent 3rd branch of government is not mincing words: “Stone…served as an official…for… Trump’s campaign.” The distinction is stark when you compare that to how Mueller specifically included Stone as merely a “U.S. Person” when discussing some of Stone’s IRA retweets, as opposed to the other group specifically called out as “individuals affiliated with…the campaign [who] also promoted IRA tweets…REDACTED.”
In truth, for the prosecution, it matters not one bit whether Stone is convicted for anything beyond false statements. All that will eventually matter is that he received a fair jury trial where he was duly convicted of lying (in service of Trump’s campaign).
I humbly opine, the “case in chief” that you speculated Mueller might charge before his appointment concluded still exists. It is just not in the form you anticipated. Justice is not obtained by merely proving Trump gamed our electoral process with the help of the Russians. (BTW, Putin would love to get credit for exposing weakness in our democracy. His beef is and has always been with our legislature as a whole, not any politician in particular.) Justice can only be achieved with regard to 45 in one way: the public must know exactly how many dollars 45 took for himself that he knew the law did not allow him to take. As regrettable as it is to some on the left, the effectiveness of the Russian influence campaign must not be overstated in a way to cast shame on everyone who voted for 45. To forget the fact that 45 did what almost none of the pollsters thought possible is to dismiss the fact that there exists a legion of voters who were disinclined to pronounce their approval for his candidacy, but nonetheless chose him over HRC on their own secret ballot. The whole country in general, but any voter that fits the above description in particular deserves to see ALL of his financials.
The 2 cases filed by CREW are the 2 federal cases that present the most danger to 45. Make no mistake though, they endanger 45 not by challenging the legitimacy of his election, but by challenging the legitimacy of his bank account. Any question of his receipt of any undue emolument will ultimately be resolved by SCOTUS (and probably not any earlier than the 20-21 term.) However, unlike the SOCTUS decision leading to Nixon’s swift exit, any decision adverse to 45 can continue to haunt him (and his offspring) as long as he is alive.
Just the other day, it came up again in the media how 45 has been refusing to accept his constitutionally mandated salary and the media (Politico) fact-checked 45 after he boasted that he was the only POTUS to ever refuse his salary, saying his claim wasn’t true because Hoover and JFK both gave their salaries away to charity. In fact, 45 is 100% correct- no previous POTUS has ever refused their salary. It is, after all, mandatory and every POTUS takes a public oath to faithfully execute their duties, right? Well, 45 is choosing emoluments INSTEAD of salary. Why? It’s not just because he stands to gain a lot more from emoluments. More importantly, he is already fully aware that he entered office owing more to the US Treasury than he could ever earn from it. In anticipation that accepting the salary would reflect very poorly upon him if his day of reckoning were to arrive, he decided to preempt such a scenario and take the extraordinary precaution of returning all of the government’s checks uncashed. Even more revealing, he diverts each check to a different part of the government. Also note that he himself never frames the issue to even suggest that he is doing something that amounts to a personal sacrifice or is somehow beneficial. The only point he is ever trying to make is that it’s one more reason he thinks he is special.
PS- Don’t be surprised to see the American version of kompromat- not info manufactured just to damage someone, but true revelations of unsettling skeletons lurking in a hidden closet- dropped lawfully and precisely (seemingly out of nowhere) on 45 between now and the deadline for the GOP to put up Pence or another candidate. Also, don’t be surprised if the author of “A Warning” is only anonymous until those skeletons get revealed. The fact that Haley is campaigning so publicly for 45 at this exact moment suggests to me that she might be contemplating an attempt to walk along a tight rope that begins at feigned outrage at Tillerson and Kelly for daring to question the complete lack of discipline exhibited in any judgement or decision-making of 45 and ends with accepting the GOP nomination for 2020.
guilty on all counts.
Long-time reader, first-time post: Now that Stone’s been found guilty on all counts, hopefully we’ll learn more about any loose ends that couldn’t be revealed until that ratfucker was convicted. Some of his fellow rodent-rogerers are likely shaking in their boots at the prospect…
Maybe, but I would not hold breath. Stone has been decreed guilty by a jury finding. That is a verdict, but does not, contrary to relentless public belief, merge into an actual conviction until sentencing thereon.
Should other involved individuals take notice and shake a little in their boots? Absolutely. But how much more useful information is pried loose before Stone’s sentencing, eh, I dunno.
Good points, and that’s the main reason I find myself returning here—lots of knowledge & expertise flying about.