Roger Stone Invented a New Cover Story Rather than Defend Himself at Trial

In the wake of Friday’s commutation, I’ve been prepping to write some stuff about Roger Stone I’ve long been planning.

In this post, I’d like to elaborate on a comment I made several times during the trial.

Stone’s defense, such as it existed, consisted of two efforts. Along with ham-handed attempts to discredit witnesses, Stone — as he had always done and did even after the commutation —  denied he had anything to do with “Russia collusion.” In the trial, that amounted to an attempt to claim his lies about WikiLeaks were not material, which, if true, would have undermined the false statements charges against Stone. But that effort failed, in part, because Stone himself raised how the stolen emails got to WikiLeaks early in his HPSCI testimony, thereby making it clear he understood that WikiLeaks, and not just Russia, was included in the scope of HPSCI’s investigation.

More interestingly, however, in Bruce Rogow’s opening argument for Stone, Rogow reversed his client’s claims — made during his HPSCI testimony — to have had an intermediary with WikiLeaks.

Now, the government has said something about Mr. Stone being a braggart. And he did brag about his ability to try to find out what was going on. But he had no intermediary. He found out everything in the public domain.


And the first one at paragraph 75, it says that Mr. Stone sought to clarify something about Assange, and that he subsequently identified the intermediary, that’s Mr. Credico, who, by the way, the evidence is going to show was no intermediary, there was no go between, there was no intermediary. Mr. Corsi was not an intermediary. These people were playing Mr. Stone.

And Mr. Stone took the bait. And so that’s why he thought he had an intermediary. There was no intermediary. There were no intermediaries. And the evidence is going to show that. And I think when Mr. Credico testifies, he will confirm that he was not an intermediary.

And what is an intermediary? What is a go-between? An intermediary is someone between me and the other party. And the other party, the way the government has constructed this, was Julian Assange. And there was no intermediary between Mr. Stone and Julian Assange. It’s made up stuff.

Does it play in politics? Does it play in terms of newspaper articles and public? Did Mr. Stone say these things? You saw the clips that are going to be played. We don’t hide from those clips. They occurred. Mr. Stone said these things.

But he was playing others himself by creating for himself that notion that he had some kind of direct contact, which he later on renounced and publicly renounced it and said that is not what I meant, that is not what was happening. And to the extent that anybody thinks that Credico was a direct intermediary, a go-between between Stone and Julian Assange, Mr. Credico will destroy that notion. Mr. Corsi will destroy that notion.

All these people were playing one another in terms of their political machinations, trying to be important people, trying to say that they had more than they really had in terms of value and perhaps value to the committee, I mean, value to the campaign.

That story certainly had its desired effect. Some credulous journalists came in believing that whether Stone had an intermediary or not mattered to the outcome. Those who had reason to discount the possibility that Stone had advance knowledge of the stolen emails grasped on this story (and Jerome Corsi’s unreliability), and agreed that Rogow must have it right, that Stone was really working from public information. For a good deal of the public, then, this story worked. Roger Stone didn’t have any inside track, he was just trying to boost his value to the Trump campaign.

From a narrative standpoint, that defense was brilliant. It had the desired effect of disclaiming any advance knowledge of the hack-and-leak, and a great many people believed it (and still believe it).

From a legal standpoint, though, it was suicidal. It amounted to Roger Stone having his lawyer start the trial by admitting his guilt, before a single witness took the stand.

That’s true partly because the facts made it clear that Randy Credico not only had not tricked Roger Stone, but made repeated efforts, starting well in advance of Stone’s HPSCI testimony, to correct any claim that he was Stone’s intermediary. This is a point Jonathan Kravis made in his closing argument.

Now, the defense would have you believe that Randy Credico is some sort of Svengali or mastermind, that Randy Credico tricked Roger Stone into giving false testimony before the committee; that Randy Credico somehow fooled Roger Stone into believing that Stone’s own statements from August 2016 were actually about Credico. That claim is absurd.

You saw Randy Credico testify during this trial. I ask you, does anyone who saw and heard that man testify during this trial think for even a moment that he is the kind of person who is going to pull the wool over Roger Stone’s eyes. The person that you saw testify is just not the kind of person who is going to fool Roger Stone.

And look at the text messages and the email I just showed you. If Randy Credico is trying to fool Roger Stone about what Roger Stone’s own words meant in August 2016, why is Credico repeatedly texting and emailing Stone to set the record straight, telling him: I’m not the guy, there was someone else in early August.

Kravis also laid out the two times entered into evidence (there are more that weren’t raised at trial) where Stone coordinated his cover story with Corsi. If he really believed this story, Stone might have argued that when Corsi warned Stone that he risked raising more questions by pushing Credico forward as his intermediary, it was just part of Corsi duping him. But while he subpoenaed Corsi, Stone didn’t put him on the stand to testify to that, nor did he ever make such a claim in his defense.

There’s a more important reason why such a defense was insane, from a legal standpoint.

Rogow’s story was that Stone believed that both Credico and Corsi had inside information on the hack-and-leak, and that he was fully and utterly duped by these crafty villains.

If that were true, it would still mean Stone intended to lie. It would still mean that Stone sufficiently believed Corsi really was an intermediary when he testified to HPSCI that he believed he needed to — and did — cover up Corsi’s role. If Stone believed both Corsi and Credico had inside information on the hack-and-leak, it would mean he lied when he claimed he had one and only one interlocutor. If Stone believed both Corsi and Credico really were back channels, it would mean only one false statement charge against him — the one where he claimed Credico was his back channel (Count 3) — would be true. The rest — that he had no emails about Assange (Count 2), that he didn’t make any request of his interlocutor (Count 4), that he had no emails or text messages with his interlocutor (Count 5), and that he didn’t discuss his communication with his interlocutor with the campaign (Count 6) — would still be false.

Rogow’s claim that poor Roger Stone was too stupid to realize Corsi wasn’t really an interlocutor would suggest that Stone nevertheless acted on that false information, and successfully obstructed the HPSCI investigation anyway. Rogow was effectively arguing that Stone was stupid and guilty.

Moreover, if Stone really came to realize he had been duped, as Rogow claimed, then it would mean Stone had his lawyers write multiple follow-ups with HPSCI — including as late as December 2018 — yet never asked them to correct the record on this point.

(Compare that with Michael Caputo, who did correct the record when he learned Mueller knew of his ties with Henry Greenberg in his FBI interview.)

Those who bought this story did so because they believed Stone was all about claiming credit, so much so he was willing to face prison time rather than correct the record. But Stone sustained this story even at a time when Stone was explicitly avoiding making any claim he deserved credit for Trump’s victory.

So long as you don’t think through how insane this defense strategy was, it made a nice story, one that (as Stone’s original HPSCI testimony had) disclaimed any role in optimizing the fruits of the Russian operation and thereby protected Donald Trump. But that’s a narrative, not a legal defense, and as a legal defense this effort was absolutely insane.

That doesn’t mean we know precisely what secret Roger Stone was willing to risk prison time to hide. But Stone’s confession of guilt as a defense strategy makes it far more likely that he was — and is — still trying to keep that secret.

50 replies
  1. Pete T says:

    It might be elucidating if Stone gets the re-trial he seemed to want so all of this could come out.

    Except I’ve heard Stone now might be having second thoughts on pursuing a re-trial.

    After all, I think Trump can still pardon him after the election regardless of which way that goes (I am unsure of this though).

    And Lord knows who Barr would assign to be the prosecutor.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Roger Stone and the inside track. As with investing in stocks during the era of British rule over Hong Kong, nobody with real money invested in them without insider information. It was the difference between owning a luxury junk and working on one. Same with any corrupt boxing promoter, real estate mogul, or career dirty trickster. It’s one reason Roger’s dirty tricks work. For the same reason, Trump would never cold call a real bank hoping to get a loan. Everything would be orchestrated and approved before he ever asked. He hates rejection, that he thinks he’s always a winner is what keeps his ego from collapsing in a heap.

    Roger and Trump go way back. They were working the dark side to rig the election. They’re about to do it again. I wonder if Trump has a pardon in his pocket for any new crimes Roger is about to commit.

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      Whenever we are fortunate enough to rid ourselves of Trump and his minions, it will take a Nuremberg-like effort to uncover all the corruption that has transpired. I hope the Democratic party is up to that task and is planning for it.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The Young Turks maybe. Katie Porter, for example, would be the perfect person to lead such an investigation. But the much older leadership tends to let sleeping dogs lie, and lie, and lie.

        • OldTulsaDude says:

          I can understand and even tolerate a small degree of shady dealings – to the victors go the spoils, after all. Only the Trump group thinks the spoils mentioned are spoils of war, and they are the Roman conquerors. They need to be taught why Latin is a dead language.

          • P J Evans says:

            There was a news service out of Finland until last year, using Latin. It isn’t *that* dead as a language. (And it has some marvelous obscenities.)

          • Hika says:

            It’s a fair inference from long-term observation. I think many (including me) would be pleased to be proven wrong on this.

  3. BobCon says:

    Does the switch to a bad defense strategy for the sake of a preferred narrative imply that Trump intervening in the sentence was already a sure thing before the trial even started?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I don’t know that anybody who’s talking knows. But it would be consistent with a similar change by Paul Manafort. He gave up very good, well-connected white-collar crime lawyers and switched to Sid Powell. She abandoned any rational legal defense and went all-in for a PR-only strategy. Both suggest unprecedented and close collaboration with the White House, which would suggest conspiracy to obstruct and that the fix was in.

      As an aside, I would note for WH and DoJ employees contemplating life after January 20th, that the destruction of public records is a crime. For certain purposes, it could be obstruction, and Donald Trump won’t be around to offer clemency or pardons.

      • emptywheel says:

        Flynn, not Manafort.
        His Trump-friendly obstruction was different, and in some ways more interesting.

        • viget99 says:

          As in, hypothetically speaking, say he was pretending to cooperate on certain sensitive matters, but really was playing both sides?

          As opposed to Manafort, who promised to cooperate, but once he signed an agreement all of the sudden started misremembering things? Of course, Team Mueller anticipated that so was able to declare his agreement null and void.

          Just a WAG on my part. I have no sort of knowledge.

          • Eureka says:

            Manafort was firehosing info to Team Trump through the JDA, which I think helped some with Trump’s take home test (and his delays in answering).

            Adding: he was Trump’s biggest helper pre-Barr

            • Eureka says:

              …or so a case could be made (as to the value of his role) | and among other things (besides Trump’s answers to Mueller)

  4. CD54 says:

    Since the Commutation what can a House committee subpoena from Stone now?

    From DOJ re: Stone?

    Deliciously ironic if House got Stone’s notebook on Trump directly from Stone.

  5. Jenny says:

    Stone is a blabber mouth. What comes to mind is the photo of Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Lee Atwater in 1985. The Three Tricksters.

    Roger Stone says McCarthy, Stefanik advocated against preelection clemency
    “Congressman Matt Gaetz from my home state of Florida, who I know was out there when Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik were arguing against any clemency for Roger Stone because it might cost the Republicans seats,” Stone said as he listed those who supported his bid to stay out of jail despite his conviction on charges of lying to congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 election. “I know that Matt Gaetz was standing tall, both privately and in public, on my behalf.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Garden variety ass-covering. Those three are heralds for Donald Trump. They would no more argue against clemency for Stone – something their monarch, Donald I, has long made clear he will provide – than they would cross the aisle and vote for a Pelosi bill. But they do need help in getting re-elected, and appearing more distant from the Don is the first thing their advisers would recommend.

      • ducktree says:

        Don’t tell the president*, but the name Donald does mean “world ruler”. I kid you not, (as it’s also my name ~ though I never let that go to my head)!

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This was mentioned elseweb, but anyone else notice the helpful timing for Trump’s campaign: The door opens for Roger Stone as Brad Parscale goes out the window?

    Brad’s semi-departure might curtail his patronage network and personal income. But his continuing work for another part of the campaign – and the money paid him – provides legal cover for the pledge of omerta he would have given the Don. That sort of arrangement is old hat. I would be more concerned about any continuing access to the data that Brad might have designed into the campaign’s IT platforms and his contracts.

  7. BayStateLibrul says:

    The sheriff strolls into town. Maybe not Wyatt Earp, but Moby from Manhattan
    Time is of the essence.

    “Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance is asking the Supreme Court to immediately send to lower federal courts its recent ruling that Trump is not immune from having his tax returns subpoenaed, warning a delay could thwart the filing of possible criminal charges.”

    • bmaz says:

      Cy Vance is a joke. Nobody in their right mind should rely on him. Also this is idiotic, “lower courts” already have the ruling and do not need to wait for anything. This is a desperate and preening Vance trying to act like he is doing something when he is not. Complete bullshit.

      • BayStateLibrul says:

        I thought the Supremos had to wait for a minimum of 25 days before the opinion takes effect?
        Fuck Mazars, a truly overly indulgent, bad ass Accounting Firm.
        The drink of choice for bartenders, after hours of course, is a Boilermaker.
        I need a big swig of a beer and a shot to fathom this fiasco.
        I’ll drink to Vance

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The law became clear the day the opinion was issued. A delay doesn’t change that lower courts are already aware of it.

          I don’t consider Mazars bad ass, so much as arrogant, complicit, and enabling of all things Trump. More so than was Arthur Andersen regarding Enron.

          • BayStateLibrul says:

            Is the 25 day true or false?
            My “bad ass” term includes arrogance, arrogance and arrogance and also deception.
            “Mazars has portrayed itself as an innocent bystander in the war between Trump and his pursuers… Over a span of decades, they have played two critical roles for Trump. One is common for an accounting firm to help him pay the smallest amount of taxes possible. The second is not common to all: to help him appear to the world to be rich beyond imagining. That sometimes requires creating precisely the opposite impression of what’s in his tax filings.”
            Three strikes and yer out.
            Another bad actor is Deutsche Bank.
            I hope you won’t defend them

            • P J Evans says:

              What I read was that they have 25 days to certify it. It doesn’t mean that the decision can’t take effect before that.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              That seems random, like your definition of bad ass, the understated description of Mazars’ contribution toward the crimes of Donald Trump, and the suggestion I might defend a serial criminal like DB. It’s not about you or whether you have the information available to a law student.

              The reference was obviously about Vance being aware he was blowing smoke, which might be one reason for the less than glowing evaluation. More relevant to that would be the bank-friendly way he dealt with the bank crimes that caused the Great Recession.

              • BayStateLibrul says:

                Point of Order.
                It is not random at all.
                Is there a 25 day “certification” process or is it a fancy?
                A simple yes or no answer will suffice.
                Before this decision, I never heard of it before.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  You might look it up or ask someone who practices before the Supreme Court. It’s possible bmaz knows the S.Ct.’s normal procedure for clearing decisions from its docket and the mechanics of how they move to the lower courts for further proceedings.

                  To start with, that involves confirming the text, entering it into an online system, preparing the hard copy (the controlling version) for printing, etc. That normally appears to take about 25 days. It does not affect the effective date of the opinion, but does effect when the lower courts act on it, because they need to work from the final controlling text.

                  If all Vance is doing is filing a motion with the S.Ct. to accelerate that process, fine. Given the context, the S.Ct. should have done that itself. But the quote from the news media isn’t specific enough to say that. Maybe Vance wasn’t either.

                  • BayStateLibrul says:

                    That makes sense.
                    I think all they want to do is expedite the process.
                    I’m an accountant, so the word “certify” means a lot.
                    In the legal sense, I’m a rookie.
                    The process is so time consuming, it makes me crazy!

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      What bmaz said. The suggestion attributed to Vance is idiotic. A first year law student knows that what Vance claims to promote is standard operating procedure. Federal district and appellate courts – and on relevant issues, state courts – are obligated to be aware of Supreme Court decisions at all times, and they are bound to follow them. Not doing so is reversible error.

      Vance is acting like the hamster, who thinks that by running faster on his wheel, he will move the cage farther. His professed fear of delay suggests its opposite, that he’s been given a go-slow by his patrons and needs cover for it. It’s not as if he’s ever given a master class on confronting the powers that be.

      • BayStateLibrul says:

        Hee. Hee.
        Comparing Vance to a hamster.
        I’ll have to “cc” the New York Post?
        At least, he is not a “rat”
        I’m not buying your “fear of delay” argument.
        The 15 yard delay of game penalty is owned and operated by The Con Man and The Jay Sekulow Band of Jesus Freaks.
        Not sure what is motivating your “bad guy” bio of Cy.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I want to say that this is the best site on the Internet for curious, involved readers and commentators.

    I am reminded to say that because I’ve just renewed by vow to avoid dailykos – a few months before a Democrat is likely to beat Donald Trump. That’s because it has changed its layout. Posts that were once chronological are no longer, the date and time references one can now see only after clicking. Plastered across the page are “trending stories,” in what appears to be a consultant-designed move to boost traffic. The idea of “trending” is thus made self-fulfilling. It’s what I would expect from a Trumpy, putting together a poll to see who is the most popular president evuh. Dkos even asked readers to rate the new site: they panned it, but it remains, like a McDonald’s french fry, untouched by wind or weather.

    The price for such readable news and views is support – lest the best be driven the way of McClatchy. If you can, please find that boxed “Support” button and use it, especially now that EW has to pay Irish prices for some of her pens, ink, and likker. Thank you to EW and the whole team, from the bottom of my keyboard.

    • Ruthie says:

      Here, here.

      I don’t comment often myself because I seldom have anything insightful or interesting to add. My monthly contribution is for the proprietress, but I value the contributions of regular commenters almost as much.

    • John K says:

      I still skim Daily Kos because there can be found an occasional video, joke, or chart worth forwarding. But theirs is a single apple tree that produces a few good apples once in a while. This site is an orchard full of productive trees.

  9. Coyle says:

    One more reason Stone and Flynn chose bogus conspiracy theories over legal logic: it tends play well on Fox News, especially when you cast yourself as innocent victims of deep-state plots and prosecutorial overreach. You could even say there were/are two judges for both cases: the one actually sitting in the courtroom and the fat slob tweeting and drooling on the other side of the boob tube.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Somebody in this video from Portland, OR, needs to go to prison. It is not the peaceful protesters or anyone on their side of the street. It’s the apparently federal officer who shot a peaceful protester – ten to fifteen yards away – in the head with a “non-lethal” round. Those are supposed to be fired at the ground first, not directly at a human target – a practice police collectively seem to think is not punitive enough. The reason I say federal officer is that Portland police are formally banned from using such weapons just now.

  11. John Lehman says:

    Sickening video. Victim was standing in a public park (Chapman Square) across from the Federal Courthouse. Required emergency facial reconstruction surgery. 27 years old. Don’t know his current status. Do know he was shot by one of the Federal agents Trump was bragging about sending to Portland. Which agency the the shooter was from, don’t know, but do know ICE agents were among the Federal agents guarding the Federal Courthouse.

    From Portland

  12. BayStateLibrul says:

    Update on the law suit from Hell
    Next: Discovery.
    Fuck discovery. We have already discovered that Trump is a lying cheat.
    All rise, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero is listening to more bull shit from Trump’s lawyer Will “I’ll litigate this to death” Consovoy.
    More crazy ass arguments from Willy Boy — overbroad, bad faith, and retaliation. Marrero should tell him sit the fuck down and read the Supreme Court Decision.
    Carey Dunne is carrying the water for Cy.
    Trump is murdering the case by delay…. Statue of Limitation. Trump is like any CEO…. comply you bastard!
    Why didn’t the Supreme Court anticipate this nonsense, and tell Trump to turn over his financial riff-raff numbers with “all deliberate speed”
    Let’s be honest…. our legal system is not a system it is a contrivance of fucking lawyers making shit up.
    Happy Hour starts at 4PM.

  13. Savage Librarian says:


    If you would trust a Stone reborn,
    or brute whose hair won’t be shorn,
    who looks a lot like candy corn,
    then grab yourself a strong shoehorn,

    And wedge a space between north
    and south, east & west and all forlorn
    states where virus that’s airborne
    pretends away spittle we should scorn.

    If you want a chief who has sworn
    to care for us and forewarn,
    instead of causing us to mourn,
    then gather up esprit de corps.

    Don’t be cowed by Don’s bullhorn
    as he tries to keep people torn,
    Joe can grow US from an acorn
    to oak, building up, unlike DT’s thorn.

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