Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Stone trial: "It ain't pretty"

As most of you know, Stone is being tried for obstruction of justice -- specifically, for lying to Congress. Opening statements were heard today. So far, things look bad for ol' Rog.

First: Isn't it interesting that, just as the Stone trial opened, someone in court had a seizure? JFK assassination buffs -- of which Stone is one, albeit not one I like -- know that, shortly before the great unpleasantness in Dealey Plaza, a man on Elm Street had an epileptic seizure. If memory serves, the FBI identified him as a guy named Bellknap. Some have suggested that the conspirators staged this incident to distract the cops from noticing suspicious activity.

Obviously, I'm not suggesting that the Stone seizure served a nefarious purpose. (In fact, I'm far from convinced that the Bellknap incident was nefarious.) I'm simply amused by the cute little rhymes that history sometimes serves up.

During the lunch break, Stone was seen in the cafeteria with Milo Yiannopoulos and Jack Posobiec. Just outside their window, some wit positioned a giant inflated rat balloon bearing Trump's head. Brilliant!

The best, snarkiest, most well-informed commentary on all matters Stone-y comes from Marcy Wheeler, of course. Marcy links to this thread by reporter Zoe Tillman, who was in court. In the following selections, "Zelinksy" refers to prosecutor Aaron Zelinksy and "Rogow" refers to Stone's lawyer, Bruce Rogow.
Zelinsky: Why did Stone lie to House Intel about contacts with WikiLeaks through intermediaries about the DNC hack? "The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump."

Zelinsky: "This case is not about who hacked the [DNC]’s servers. This case is not about whether Roger Stone had any communications with any Russians. And this case is not about politics. This case is about Roger Stone’s false testimony ... and his efforts to obstruct"

Zelinsky is going through the govt's evidence. He says that on 6/14/16, after the DNC announced that it had been hacked, there is a record that Stone called Trump and the two spoke on the phone. A month later in July 2016, Zelinsky says, WikiLeaks released emails from the DNC

Zelinsky makes clear they don't know what Stone and Trump talked about, just that the call happened. There was another call between Stone and Trump on July 31, 2016, while Stone was in touch with intermediaries about trying to reach Julian Assange about the hacked emails
Marcy made a good point: If the Obama administration really had "tapped" Trump, as Trump once claimed, those conversations would not be mysterious.
Zelinsky showed the jury an 8/18/16 email from Stone to Steve Bannon that included the line: "I do know how to win this but it ain't pretty"

On Oct. 4, 2016, after Assange held a press conf but didn't release any new info (Zelinsky called it a "dud"), Bannon emailed Stone: “What was that this morning???” Stone replied it was "fear" and "security" concerns, but ended with: "However --a load every week going forward"
I remember that occasion. Stone had promised BIG BIG BIG things from Assange. Specifically, Stone had tweeted on the preceding Sunday: “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”

I admit that these words had me scared. 

Wednesday came and Assange spoke -- revealing nothing. It was a classic "Al Capone's vault" scenario. Even Alex Jones felt robbed and resentful.

So what does "fear" and "security" mean in this context?

I should note that, when Stone offered his Sunday tweet, Media Matters and others opined that Wikileaks would release doctored versions of Hillary's emails. That didn't happen. In previous posts, I have suggested that Team Trump decided not to use the "doctored  emails" tactic because they belatedly understood that the FBI had already recovered most of the supposedly-missing emails.

On October 4, Guccifer 2 (Russian intel in disguise) released what they claimed was the Clinton-killing information, which turned out to be nothing special. Specifically: G2 claimed that they had hacked into the Clinton Foundation server and found all sorts of juicy stuff. But that server was not hacked; none of the emails were to or from or about the Foundation.  The "juicy stuff" -- which was pretty much juice-free -- all came from the DNC server, which -- as everyone knows -- really was hacked.

Years have passed, yet the events of that October 4 still gnaw at me. Something weird was going on -- something not yet revealed.

I'm not sure what the original plan was, and I'm not sure what sort of "fear" and "security" concerns caused Trump's propagandists to change their plan. But I'm certain that Russia was involved. And it sure as hell looks like Stone was in on it. As we shall see, he may have come up with the idea in the first place.

Now let's get back to Tillman's report.
Also on 10/3/16 and 10/4/16, Zelinsky shows messages between Stone and Erik Prince. Stone refers to another "payload" coming, and when Prince asks if Stone has heard "from London" (Assange was at the Ecuadorian embassy in London), Stone says "Yes" and asks to move to Whatsapp
Zelinsky tells the jury that they'll hear from Steve Bannon and Rick Gates, and notes that Gates pleaded guilty to financial crimes and lying to the FBI and is testifying as part of a cooperation agreement. But Zelinsky says the testimony will be back up by docs.
I've seen some interesting outbursts of Bannon-hate from various right-wing sources of late.

Tillman then summarizes the statement from Stone's lawyer...
Rogow begins by saying that the prosecutor was right to say that the texts, emails, and statements are all there for the jury to see, but "what isn’t there for you to see is Mr. Stone’s state of mind." Stone's state of mind is important in this case, Rogow says.
Seriously? That's the defense? Seems to me that Stone's actual words, as conveyed in texts and emails, give us a pretty good glimpse into his state of mind at the time. Anything he says now is self-serving.

Here's the bit that stunned me:
Rogow says there were no actual intermediaries between Stone and WikiLeaks — he says Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi were "playing" Stone and Stone took the bait and that's why he thought there were intermediaries (re: Stone's bragging about knowing what was coming from WikiLeaks)
Again: Seriously? That's the defense?

We are supposed to believe Credico and Corsi were lying to Stone? And are we supposed to conclude that somehow their (alleged) misrepresentation excuses Stone's false testimony to Congress?
As for Randy Credico, Rogow says the jury will hear from Credico firsthand and can decide if he's telling the truth. Rogow says that Credico will admit he was playing himself up to Stone and making himself out to be a bigger deal than he was
As for Stone's communications with Bannon, Gates, and Prince, Rogow says the evidence show there was no "corrupt intent." Those communications reflect an effort to get Trump elected, and "that is not a crime — that's a First Amendment right that people have," Rogow says.
The First Amendment does not give Roger Stone the right to lie during sworn testimony.

Josh Gerstein of Politico also reported on the opening statements. A few excerpts:
Stone’s defense also offered its first glimpse Wednesday afternoon into how it will fight the government’s charges. In essence, Stone's attorneys argued that their client had no corrupt intent when he testified before Congress and that his interactions with the witness central to the tampering charge were really just harmless discussions between two longtime associates who admittedly had a “strange relationship.”
How does one lie to Congress non-corruptly?
In the ensuing weeks, Stone peppered senior Trump aides with urgent messages about a plan to give a dramatic boost to the New York real estate mogul’s presidential campaign.

“I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,” Stone told Bannon in an Aug 16, 2016, email shown to jurors Tuesday. It was the first time prosecutors had revealed the message, one of hundreds of communications they said will be shared during the course of the upcoming trial. Bannon's name in particular was mentioned repeatedly throughout the day, raising the stakes for his eventual testimony.
The jury was also told that Stone also wrote to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with an urgent message.

“I have an idea….to save Trump’s ass,” Stone wrote.
The wording strongly suggests that Stone wrote those words before Paul Manafort was fired. If so, then Marcy -- writing last February -- may have uncovered a reference to this same "idea."

In that February piece, Marcy discussed that strange interlude when Paul Manafort offered to cooperate with Mueller. For a brief period, it looked as though this cooperation might be genuine, that Manafort would "go Cohen" on Trump. Marcy examined pertinent documentation that included a few intriguing redactions:
This investigation pertains to events that happened “prior to [Manafort] leaving the campaign (on August 19).” [January 15 filing at 26]

As Andrew Weissman described in the breach hearing, Manafort’s version of the story first came when prosecutors, “were asking questions about an e-mail that Mr. [5 character name] had written about a potential way of saving the candidate. That’s sort of paraphrasing it. And this was a way of explaining, or explaining away that e-mail.” In the Janaury 15 filing, this conversation arises to explain “a series of text messages.” [See 25]
When Marcy first published, her readers embarked on a guessing game: Who was the fellow with the five-letter name? Frustratingly, many people in Trumpworld have five-letter last names: Corsi, Nader, Smith, Sater, Nunes -- and, of course, Putin. (I'm not serious about that last one.)

In light of what we've learned from the trial so far, STONE seems the likeliest candidate.

It all looks pretty damning to me. We still don't know what the plan was, but a plan did exist -- an ugly plan. The plan that Stone said "ain't pretty" may have been the same plan that was supposed to wallop Hillary on October 4, 2016. The trap, devised while Manafort ran the campaign, was supposed to be sprung as the campaign's proverbial "October Surprise."

I'm not sure what the plan was, although I still suspect that it involved faked emails. But I'm certain of this much: It was originally Roger Stone's idea. That's not my surmise: He came right out and said so.
“I have an idea….to save Trump’s ass,” Stone wrote.
“I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty...”
When this trial is over, Stone may regret not cooperating with Mueller.  Then again, Trump will probably pardon his old pal after the election -- which means that it just doesn't matter if Rogow offers a Chewbacca defense.

A depressing thought, that.


MrMike said...

You won't have to read or listen to courtroom reporting on the Stone trial. Just look at how Rog is dressed entering and leaving court. The more outlandish the outfit the better Stone thinks the trial is going for him.

Anonymous said...

@Mike. Good idea but I’ll have to calibrate my clownometer, and adjust it for the Evil part of the scale.