The indictment we — including the indicted party — have been expecting for months has finally come. Roger Stone, President Trump’s longest-serving political adviser, has been charged with lying to investigators.
The alleged lies pertain to his efforts to secure information from WikiLeaks about its release of Democrats' emails during the 2016 campaign. Here are four key sections and takeaways.
1. An abundance of contradiction
There’s really not a lot of ambiguity when it comes to Stone’s alleged lies. At one point, the indictment includes two exchanges in which Stone denies ever communicating with his WikiLeaks intermediary via text or email.
Here’s one exchange:
Q: How did you communicate with the intermediary?
A: Over the phone.
Q: And did you have any other means of communicating with the intermediary?
Q: No text messages, no — none of the list, right?
Later in his testimony, Stone repeats this:
Q: So you never communicated with your intermediary in writing in any way?
Q: Never emailed him or texted him?
A: He’s not an email guy.
Q: So all your conversations with him were in person or over the phone.
But the indictment details many messages and makes clear there was no way Stone would simply have forgotten about these things.
“In truth and in fact, as described above, STONE and Person 2 (who STONE identified to HPSCI as his intermediary) engaged in frequent written communication by email and text message,” the indictment states. “STONE also engaged in frequent written communication by email and text message with Person 1, who also provided STONE with information regarding Organization 1.” (Organization 1 is WikiLeaks. HPSCI is the House Intelligence Committee. Person 2 appears to be Randy Credico, and Jerome Corsi has confirmed that he is Person 1.)
2. A ‘Godfather’ reference
In perhaps the most colorful section, the indictment says that Stone urged someone who was testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee to emulate a character from “The Godfather: Part II” who feigned ignorance during his own testimony:
On multiple occasions, including on or about December 1, 2017, STONE told Person 2 that Person 2 should do a “Frank Pentangeli” before HPSCI in order to avoid contradicting STONE’s testimony. Frank Pentangeli is a character in the film The Godfather: Part II, which both STONE and Person 2 had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims not to know critical information that he does in fact know.
The clause “which both STONE and Person 2 had discussed,” is key, because it suggests both of them were familiar with exactly what the character had done.
For those unfamiliar, here’s an explainer on Frank Pentangeli, and here’s the scene:
3. The big question: The Trump campaign’s role
There is no smoking gun in the indictment when it comes to the Trump campaign’s culpability, and for most of the campaign, Stone was an informal Trump adviser — not actually serving on the campaign. So as far as potential Trump campaign collusion with Russia via WikiLeaks, which the U.S. government regards as a front for Russia’s election interference, you still need to connect some dots.
But the indictment does make clear (repeatedly) that the campaign was interested in the WikiLeaks information — and even sought the information from Stone — over a span of months, from the summer of 2016 to October 2016:
During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the [Hillary] Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.
Later in the indictment:
Also on or about October 3, 2016, STONE received an email from a reporter who had connections to a high-ranking Trump Campaign official that asked, “[the head of Organization 1] – what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” STONE responded in part, “It is. I’d tell [the high-ranking Trump Campaign official] but he doesn’t call me back.”
The “high-ranking Trump Campaign official” appears to be Stephen K. Bannon, who according to emails obtained by the New York Times emailed with Stone about WikiLeaks the next day.
On or about October 7, 2016, Organization 1 released the first set of emails stolen from the Clinton Campaign chairman. Shortly after Organization 1’s release, an associate of the highranking Trump Campaign official sent a text message to STONE that read “well done.” In subsequent conversations with senior Trump Campaign officials, STONE claimed credit for having correctly predicted the October 7, 2016 release.
You’ll recall Oct. 7 was the day WikiLeaks orchestrated an email dump shortly after The Washington Post reported on Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape in which he talked crudely about grabbing women by their genitals. That apparent distraction was apparently appreciated by “an associate of a highranking Trump Campaign official.”
4. A strong hint of Trump?
The most significant reference to members of the campaign, though, could be this:
After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.
The words “was directed” loom large here. Who did the directing? Why not just characterize who that was in vague terms, as is done throughout the indictment? Is it because it’s not clear who that was, or because Mueller’s team doesn’t want to reveal too much about that person’s role?
Though we can’t say for sure, it seems entirely possible this is Trump. He, after all, would seem to be the person who would have the authority to direct a “senior Trump Campaign official” — though it’s possible another senior aide could also do so. Even if it was Trump, that wouldn’t necessarily be some kind of smoking gun, but it would be problematic.
As he has in past indictments, Mueller isn’t showing us too much here. But spending so much time detailing the campaign’s interest in WikiLeaks — which speaks to Stone’s alleged lies but probably isn’t entirely necessary — does seem conspicuous. Remember that Mueller routinely includes stuff like this that comes up later — most notably with Konstantin Kilimnik’s ties to Russian intelligence and Michael Cohen’s plea to lying about Trump Tower Moscow.
In many ways, this feels like another “speaking indictment.” There’s a hint of something possible to come.