The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Roger Stone joins the remarkable universe of criminality surrounding President Trump

Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Trump. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

On Friday, President Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone was found guilty on seven criminal charges related to testimony he gave to Congress as part of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Those charges included five counts of offering false statements, one of obstruction and one of witness tampering. Stone is scheduled to be sentenced early next year.

Stone was with Trump at the very beginning of the president’s time in politics. In fact, Stone long pushed Trump to enter into the political world, encouraging him repeatedly to announce presidential bids in previous cycles. He was sidelined during Trump’s 2016 run after either quitting or being fired; as with many things related to Stone, details are murky.

In October 2018, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone denied having "advanced knowledge" of WikiLeaks information that influenced the course of the 2016 election. (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

Friday’s convictions seem to bring to an end the high-profile criminal probes stemming from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The convictions also contribute to a truly remarkable universe of admitted, proved or alleged criminal behavior involving people linked to Trump.

  • Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is in prison after being found guilty on charges including fraud.
  • Manafort’s deputy on the campaign, his longtime business partner Rick Gates, is awaiting sentencing after agreeing to cooperate with investigators and pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge. Gates was also part of Trump’s inaugural team.
  • Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn is awaiting sentencing for having lied to federal investigators.
  • Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is in prison, serving time for charges including lying to Congress, fraud and campaign finance violations — charges in which he implicated Trump.
  • A foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, George Papadopoulos, was convicted of lying to investigators and served time in prison.
  • Stone was convicted by a jury of lying to Congress, apparently to protect Trump as part of the Russia probe.

The Mueller investigation obtained criminal indictments for or guilty pleas from dozens of other people, as well. Two dozen are Russian nationals, indicted over their alleged efforts to interfere with the 2016 campaign. One, Richard Pinedo, provided false bank information to Russians, allowing them to conduct their operation. Alex van der Zwaan, an associate of Manafort and Gates, admitted making false statements to investigators. Another Manafort associate based in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, is under indictment for obstruction of justice. Kilimnik, like the indicted Russians, has not been taken into custody.

All the indictments above followed from the Mueller probe with the exception of most of the charges against Cohen. The scale of what Mueller’s team accomplished remains remarkable.

Alleged criminal activity in Trump’s orbit extends beyond Mueller’s work.

Two associates of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani were indicted last month on campaign finance charges. Those men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were subpoenaed by House investigators in September, at which point their attorney (who himself had once worked for Trump) asserted attorney-client privilege in a refusal to comply.

“Messrs. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump,” attorney John Dowd wrote. It was later revealed that this assistance included working with Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine, including sitting in on interviews involving Ukrainian officials. That effort by Giuliani on Trump’s behalf is now a central part of the impeachment inquiry Trump faces.

The Stone verdicts were returned during a break in a public impeachment hearing. During that same break, the Wall Street Journal reported that Giuliani himself was under investigation by federal prosecutors regarding a natural gas business in Ukraine. Earlier in the day, Bloomberg reported that Giuliani might also be under investigation for potential campaign finance violations. Reported investigations into Giuliani offered in vague terms extend back for more than a month.

Stone’s career has been centered on pushing boundaries in politics. He has embraced breaking rules in service to his political goals. In that regard, Friday’s convictions aren’t terribly surprising.

Nor are they surprising in the context of Trump’s sphere of advisers and associates. To date, Trump campaign and personal advisers have already been sentenced to more than a decade in prison, with Flynn, Gates and Stone still to be sentenced.

In other words, Trump allies will have served more than twice as much time in jail by the time they are released as Trump will have served in the White House during this term in office. And that ratio, due to convictions like that of Stone, will only grow.