To hear Roger Stone tell it, his Instagram post attacking the judge presiding over a case that could send him to prison for years was a momentary lapse in judgment, something he didn’t even really review or process.
Yeah. The judge wasn’t buying it, either.
On Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson slapped a gag order on Stone, after a post in which he attacked her and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe. The post included an image of her with what look like crosshairs next to her head. Jackson implied that she didn’t believe it was just an innocent mistake. And looking at the transcript, it’s pretty apparent how ridiculous Stone’s explanations were.
Let’s run through them.
1. Who posted it
Stone said at one point that he, at first, thought a volunteer had posted the Instagram but that he later realized that he did.
Q: Who exactly posted this photo on your Instagram account?
STONE: I did.
Q: It was not a volunteer?
STONE: No. Initially I thought it was. I do many posts a day. I had to go back and look at it. I didn’t think about this appropriately, as I said.
Stone would later return to the idea that he simply does so many social media postings that this one got lost in the shuffle, saying, “I do 10 of these a day.”
But this was a post in which Stone attacked a federal judge whose rulings could lead to his incarceration. It had a very specific, conspiratorial message. Anybody with any sense would realize it is the kind of thing that could land Stone in hot water — if not in jail. It was also just a few days ago. And Stone says he wasn’t even sure if he posted it?
2. Shifting explanations
Stone’s defense seemed to rest on the idea that someone else selected the image and that he didn’t really process it or the crosshairs. But even on that point, he shifted.
“I did not select the image,” he said initially, “I did not review it, and I didn’t take into consideration the implications.” He added that it was his responsibility . . . but also: “I just did not look at it. I didn’t review it properly; that was my fault.”
But later, Stone revealed that he was presented with multiple images, at which point he selected the one he did (which included the apparent crosshairs):
Q. How many images did you have?
STONE. They gave me two or three.
Q. What were the others?
STONE. I don’t recall.
JACKSON: You had a choice?
STONE: It was random. It was an error, Your Honor.
JACKSON: Okay. I’m just trying to get to the facts here. We started with somebody else did it and you didn’t see it. Then it was, “No, somebody else found it, but I posted it.” Now you’re telling me somebody else found more than one image and you chose this one, is that correct?
STONE: Just randomly, yes, Your Honor.
JACKSON: You closed your eyes and picked?
STONE: No, I just -- I do ten of these a day. I’m -- I’m trying to struggle with the situation.
JACKSON: Randomly does not involve the application of human intelligence. You looked at multiple pictures and you chose one, is that correct –
STONE: Yes, but –
JACKSON: -- or not correct?
STONE: That is correct.
In sum: Stone did “choose” the image, but he didn’t “review” it? His explanation shifted from “I did not select the image” to somehow mindlessly picking from a number of options.
So technically speaking, he did select the image. And again, his defense rests on the idea that he didn’t even really pay attention to a post with huge and obvious personal implications.
3. Who his volunteers are
To hear Stone tell it, a group of six volunteers who handle his social media are mostly responsible for the mess he’s in. Yet, he doesn’t even know their names and hasn’t bothered to check since this whole thing blew up:
Q: Mr. Stone, you’ve mentioned a couple of times now the five or six volunteers, but I’ve only heard two names. Can you give us the list of the five or six volunteers?
STONE: I have Raymond Peres -- I can’t really recall. People come and go. They’re all part of the same group. Tyler White does some posting for me, mostly on Facebook. I’m sorry, I don’t recall the others. It’s a revolving situation.
Q: You say it’s a revolving situation, but we’re talking about a post from four days ago. What was the list as of four days ago?
STONE: I’ve given you the names that I recall.
Q: You’re saying there are other names that you don’t recall?
STONE: I have had -- I would have to go back and examine -- I mean, it has been a whirlwind, sir. I would have to go back and examine it. I would have to think about who was there and try to reconstruct it.
Q: So as you sit here today you cannot remember the names of all of the volunteers –
STONE: Everybody who’s –
Q: Let me finish the question. You cannot remember the names of all the volunteers who were working for you four days ago?
Q: You cannot remember the names of all the people who had access to your cellphone four days ago?
This, again, strains credulity. Even if you somehow didn’t know the names of all the volunteers who have access to your phone and social media accounts, you are facing a rebuke from a federal judge over your use of social media. At that point, you wouldn’t even do an inventory of the people involved?
It’s not difficult to look at Stone’s history and think that this is all part of an elaborate strategy — not necessarily a smart one but a strategy, nonetheless. Maybe he’s counting on a pardon and is trying to undermine the legal system for President Trump in the meantime. Maybe he realizes he’s sunk, and he might as well go out swinging.
But regardless of the motivation, this transcript paints a picture of a guy who wasn’t really telling the whole truth about all this — which is exactly how Jackson saw it.
“No, Mr. Stone, I am not giving you another chance,” she said in issuing her ruling. “I have serious doubts about whether you’ve learned any lesson at all.”
She added: “Thank you, but the apology rings quite hollow.”