It won’t rank up there with the Russian dossier scoop. Or with the scoop that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein discussed invoking the 25th Amendment against President Trump. Or with the scoop that Trump was trying to suppress records of his encounters with Russian President Vladimir Putin from his own colleagues.
But it was a pretty darn impressive scoop: Very early Friday morning, CNN shot exclusive footage of FBI agents surrounding the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home of Roger Stone, including a choice bit where Stone himself comes to the door. “We have some major breaking news in the Mueller investigation,” said CNN “New Day” host John Berman at 6:22 Eastern time. Bolding added to note how CNN must accessorize “BREAKING NEWS" because this industry — through daily, relentless hype — has sapped all meaning from the term.
The news that CNN had legitimately broken was appropriately teed up by “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota: “There’s a moment of audio on here that I want to play for everyone because this is what the first sounds that Roger Stone woke up to this morning was the FBI pounding on his door and shouting this,” said Camerota. “FBI, open the door,” says a voice on the video below. “FBI, warrant.”
How was CNN positioned outside of Stone’s home at just the right moment?
David Shortell, a CNN crime and justice producer, explained that to Camerota: Hunches!
“It’s reporter’s instinct. The whole Russia team thought maybe something was happening. There was some unusual grand jury activity in Washington, D.C., yesterday. The grand jury — Robert Mueller’s grand jury — typically meets on Fridays," he said. "Yesterday, a Thursday, there was grand jury activity. We also had some other signs that maybe something was going on this angle, the Roger Stone angle. So, we showed up at his house this morning. We were the only ones there, and lo and behold, the FBI agents did come and arrest [him].”
The result is a video scoop — an actual exclusive — that will fortify the CNN brand today but also far into the future: No self-respecting documentarian looking back on this investigation in the years to come will pass up the spectacle of FBI agents swarming the front lawn of Roger Stone. Especially in light of the sparse video landscape of these proceedings.
As far as signals that this sort of activity would be going down, the special counsel has appeared to be circling around Stone for weeks. In early November, for example, the New York Times reported that Stone had presented himself to Trump campaign officials as a “conduit” to the email-dumping outfit WikiLeaks. Former Trump campaign official Stephen K. Bannon and two other campaign officials, the newspaper reported, had “detailed to prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, how Mr. Stone created that impression, according to people familiar with their accounts. One of them told investigators that Mr. Stone not only seemed to predict WikiLeaks’ actions but that he also took credit afterward for the timing of its disclosures that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.”
Stone has been charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, witness tampering and false statements.
In a chat on “New Day,” CNN’s Michael Smerconish said Stone derives a “perverse thrill” from such adverse actions. “Relevance at any cost, even if it means being on national TV in your pajamas, as he was this morning,” responded Camerota.