“Roger Stone, a longtime adviser and confidant of President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony charges in the Russia investigation after a publicity-filled few days spent slamming the probe as politically motivated. The political operative and self-described dirty trickster faces charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.” AP News
Both sides agree that arresting Stone during a pre-dawn raid involving numerous armed agents was excessive:
“Prosecutors knew perfectly well that Stone wasn’t a flight risk. He’s broke. He doesn’t even have a valid passport. They could have simply called his lawyer and told him to surrender... the feds sent more armed men to Roger Stone’s house in Fort Lauderdale than they did to Usama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.” Fox News
Stone “has known about this investigation for a long time — and speaks openly about it. He has engaged counsel, and his lawyers have said that they offered to surrender him… Arresting Stone in this way with the CNN cameras there to watch (even if they were not tipped off) gives ammunition to the President and the Special Counsel’s detractors, who can now say that this is being done for political reasons… Instead of instilling confidence in the Special Counsel’s office as neutral and detached, this arrest will give critics of that office a reason to say that it is acting inappropriately and with no real law enforcement purpose.” The Hill
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz writes, Stone “was not a flight risk, as evidenced by the low bail and easy conditions of release set by the judge without objection from the government. Stone knew he was going to be indicted and if he wanted to flee, he had plenty of time to do so.The same is true of destroying evidence, wiping his electronics or doing anything else that would warrant an arrest.” Gatestone Institute
The left is divided on the significance of Stone’s indictment.
“Trump’s supporters have been quick to dismiss such charges as mere ‘process crimes.’... [But] prosecutors don’t use the term ‘process crimes.’ They just call them ‘crimes’ and take them very seriously, because these crimes threaten the very foundations of the justice system… Our legal system depends on the ability of finders of fact to receive truthful and accurate information. If witnesses lie in the grand jury, lie to the FBI, tamper with witnesses, destroy evidence or otherwise impede the due administration of justice, there must be consequences.”
“People simply do not lie for no reason… The law recognizes a concept called ‘consciousness of guilt,’ which reflects the commonsense notion that lying can be evidence of a guilty state of mind. Judges instruct juries that they may use a defendant's lies to conclude that the defendant knew about, and knew he was guilty of, other crimes. So, take a critical eye to efforts by Giuliani or others to dismiss charges as ‘process crimes’ or mere false statements cases.”
“Very often prosecutors will charge a target with a crime that is more easily provable, execute a search warrant in connection with those charges, and see if they get evidence that can help support more complex, harder-to-prove charges… Remember, there is still a secret ongoing grand jury dispute as to some evidence, and several significant cooperators with whom Mueller entered into agreements and met with dozens of times combined whose fruits we have not yet seen.”
Some, however, point out that “none of [Stone’s actions during the campaign] was a crime. The indictment doesn’t suggest that Stone directed, or even knew of in advance, specific illegal acts like hacking. Being thirsty for leaks doesn’t violate federal law…
“Stone is [instead] facing prison time because he couldn’t seem to grasp the distinction between a television persona and a prudent response to a federal investigation. The lesson is an old one, drilled into our heads repeatedly in the past two years: Media strategies are not sound legal strategies. Mueller continues to take down Trump associates who could not bring themselves to lawyer up, assert their Fifth Amendment rights, and stop riding the cable-news circuit.”
“This is not the big game that Robert Mueller was hunting when he began his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Despite the breathless news coverage, the indictment is underwhelming and far from what many predicted. As for the media, it seems to be only counting heads of Trump associates indicted, as opposed to what they were actually charged with… [it] may be entertaining but it is hardly consequential in proving Russia collusion.”
Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg
“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week
The right argues that Stone’s indictment offers evidence against collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The right argues that Stone’s indictment offers evidence against collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“The indictment does not say Stone communicated with Wikileaks head Julian Assange. Rather, it says Stone lied about his attempts to learn Assange's intentions through two intermediaries: journalist and provocateur Jerome Corsi and radio host Randy Credico…
“[It does not allege] that Stone or anyone else at the Trump campaign had any direct communications with Assange or any foreknowledge of actions that WikiLeaks took. At various times, Stone claimed to have foreknowledge… but the indictment suggests that he did not, in fact, know what WikiLeaks was going to do.”
“The Stone ‘bombshell’ emails that appeared to show advance knowledge of WikiLeak releases actually show nothing of the sort. Weeks and even months before Jerome Corsi’s email to Trump advisor Stone possibly suggesting more ‘dumps’ about Hillary Clinton were coming, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had publicly promised to publish more Clinton material… What we have here is an arrest of a man who pretended to be in the know with WikiLeaks (but wasn’t) and lied about it, and then lied about gossiping about Assange in emails.”
“The president can’t be guilty of collusion that never happened. The president could well have asked someone to find out what Stone knew, but there would be a rather simple reason for doing so: Stone was broadcasting on Twitter, in interviews and in speeches, that he had an informant and that, through the informant, he knew about what was going on… This does not in any way prove collusion, any more than Hillary’s team colluded by seeking damaging information on Trump.”
“It was certainly not a crime for the Trump campaign to be interested in what WikiLeaks had on Hillary Clinton or other Democrats… once WikiLeaks began to publish [the emails], everyone in America wanted to know what was in them, no doubt especially the Trump team. Roger Stone was simply conducting his version of opposition research, albeit ineptly.”
“The seven counts are offenses generated not by an espionage conspiracy but by the investigation of an espionage conspiracy that did not exist… If the Trump campaign had been in an espionage conspiracy with Russia to hack Democratic email accounts, why would the campaign have needed Stone to try to figure out what stolen information WikiLeaks had and when it would release that information?...
“There is abundant evidence of bipartisan American naiveté and policy foolishness regarding Putin’s regime. There is no proof of a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Putin regime. To the contrary, Mueller continues to pile up proof in the opposite direction.”
“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?”
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner
“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News
“President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner
A libertarian's take
“Outside Hong Kong, the silence Is deafening… Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations… Americans are preoccupied with fighting each other over political correctness, gun violence, Trump and the Democratic candidates for president. To be sure, those issues deserve plenty of attention. But they are soaking up far too much emotional energy, distracting attention from the all-important struggles for liberty around the world…
“It’s 2019, and the land of the American Revolution, a country whose presidents gave stirring speeches about liberty and freedom in Berlin during the Cold War, remains in a complacent slumber. It really is time to Make America Great Again — if only we could remember what that means.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg
Police ask criminals not to commit crimes because it's too cold.