Several “takeaway summaries” of the Stone indictment have been published. This came across as one of the best, making several interesting points.
Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday unveiled the indictment of Trump ally Roger Stone, opening a new chapter in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. …
Here’s what we learned and how it fits into the bigger picture.
Direction from above to get WikiLeaks intel?
The most damning part of the 24-page indictment directly connects the highest echelon of the Trump campaign to Stone’s alleged effort to glean inside information about future WikiLeaks dumps.
It reads: “After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by (WikiLeaks), a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information (WikiLeaks) had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by (WikiLeaks).”
This paragraph makes it clear that Mueller believes Stone was not engaged in a rogue quest to contact WikiLeaks. Rather, Stone is alleged to have coordinated some of his efforts with the Trump campaign. …
Stone’s role with the Trump campaign
…Stone is an exaggerator, but during the campaign, he claimed he spoke with Trump on a near-weekly basis and was in regular contact with then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Stone said those conversations continued after Manafort resigned, and that Manafort was “keeping in touch with a lot of friends in the campaign.”
Court filings from Mueller tell a more definitive story. The indictment says Stone “maintained regular contact with … the Trump Campaign through the 2016 election” and described how he communicated with “senior Trump Campaign officials” about upcoming WikiLeaks releases. …
They knew Russia was behind the hacks
The first words of the indictment note that Russia’s responsibility for the hacks was well-known before Stone or anyone on the Trump campaign allegedly secretly sought information about WikiLeaks. …
Mueller started closing the loop
Mueller has now closed the loop between the Russian government, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. …
His 2018 indictment of Russian intelligence officers formally established how the Kremlin hacked Democratic targets and facilitated public releases through WikiLeaks. This was done to influence the US presidential election and help Trump win, per US intelligence agencies.
The Stone indictment completed the other half of the equation. It alleges ties between Trump’s campaign to WikiLeaks and the email leaks that severely weakened Clinton’s hand down the stretch.
Mueller clearly doesn’t trust Stone
Stone is not the first Trump associate to face charges in the Russia investigation (he’s the sixth, actually), but he is the first to be arrested by FBI agents raiding his home with guns drawn. The spectacle unfolded in Florida, but the indictment was handed up one day earlier by the special counsel’s grand jury in Washington. Mueller’s team asked a judge to keep it secret until Stone’s arrest.
They wrote: “Law enforcement believes that publicity resulting from disclosure of the Indictment and related materials on the public record prior to arrest will increase the risk of the defendant fleeing and destroying (or tampering with) evidence. It is therefore essential that any information concerning the pending indictment in this district be kept sealed prior to the defendant’s arrest.”
The beginning of the end?
There are a few clues suggesting that this might be the beginning of the end for Mueller.
The Stone indictment offered a new clue. This is the first time where special counsel prosecutors are jointly working with prosecutors from another US attorney’s office to bring a case. That could suggest that Mueller doesn’t intend for his team to see the case through the trial, which could be months away, and instead hand it off to Justice Department colleagues.