January 31, 2019

Roger Stone Pleads Not Guilty

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“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

See past issues

From the Left

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.”
Washington Post

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.”
Daily Beast

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.”
The Atlantic

“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.”
The Hill

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right argues that Stone’s indictment offers evidence against collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

From the Right

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.”
Washington Examiner

“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 Federalist

“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.”
The Hill

“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.”
USA Today

“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.”
The Hill

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

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

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

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