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20 Feb, 2020 08:55

Roger Stone’s conviction is the last hope to save RussiaGate

Roger Stone’s conviction is the last hope to save RussiaGate

The Trial of Roger Stone has reached its finale. After closely examining Stone’s case, one thing becomes clear: it should never have gotten this far.

Stone, long-time political operative and former Trump adviser, is due to be sentenced today in federal court in Washington DC, for charges including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction. 

To the untrained eye it might seem like just another Beltway scandal, featuring one of Washington’s finest, a self-proclaimed Dirty Trickster and rancorous political operative. 

Beyond the Machiavellian intrigue though, this trial and its outcome could carry some very profound implications. If convicted, his verdict will be hoisted by the American establishment to further validate the RussiaGate narrative, in particular the idea that Russia had passed hacked emails on to WikiLeaks at the height of the 2016 US presidential election. 

It’s important to note that Stone’s case shares the very same fundamental prosecutorial assumptions which underpin Julian Assange’s US case, namely, that Assange and WikiLeaks are hostile foreign actors, and not members of the Fourth Estate. In this political hall of mirrors, each piece of the official myth reinforces the other, but it is this perversion of legalese which has allowed both of these anathemas of due process to persist, and that’s why these show trials should be regarded as a low point in the history of American justice.

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Jury of his peers

An additional twist to the story came last week when all four federal prosecutors working on the Stone case suddenly resigned in protest after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened to reduce their sentence of seven to nine years for Stone. Naturally, all of this triggered a partisan storm, with the usual hysterical reactions from every known outpost of the anti-Trump resistance.

Stone then seemed to catch a lucky break with the revelation that his jury’s foreperson was actually a Democratic Party activist with a pronounced anti-Trump bias, further invigorating calls from the White House and conservative media that it was a rigged show trial from day one. 

Was it ever possible for Roger Stone to get a fair trial? Throughout this entire ordeal, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the White House who would jump to defend Roger Stone. This is one reason why there’s been a noticeable lack of levity coming from the ranks of mainstream media and politics, as many regard him as an unsavory charlatan running subterfuge for then-candidate Trump. For this reason, they would just as soon let him languish in Leavenworth. Blinded by their disdain, they will have missed why his political crucifixion is so dangerous. 

Trump may end up pardoning his old friend, but it should never have to come to that.

Looking back at how this story unfolded, it’s clearer than ever how due process was corrupted at every juncture.

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The Collusion Illusion

After four long years of vigorous media activity, inquiries, panels, investigations – Trump-Russia collusion turned out to be a hoax. So, if this epic conspiracy and national security crisis never actually happened, then why is Roger Stone going to prison for supposedly trying to conceal it? 

Put another way, it’s akin to convicting someone for trying to cover-up the existence of Sasquatch. When you cut through all of the political rhetoric and media noise, it becomes clear that obsession to bring Stone down was for one primary reason: to buttress the official RussiaGate fiction which is still held together by a passionate hate for Trump. To keep the illusion animated, America’s government-media complex have built a Maginot Line of around-the-clock propaganda and repetition of assertions, innuendoes and fake news, much of which has long been debunked, but which media talking heads and politicians still can’t let go of.

One of the key pillars for propping-up this ephemeral myth is the list of Trump associates who have been arrested and sentenced. These include Trump campaign associates Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, and Gen. Michael Flynn, who is yet to be sentenced. 

RussiaGate punditry are practically foaming at the mouth to add Stone to this rogues’ gallery. They are quick to cite these convictions as proof that “they must have been involved with the Russians, otherwise they wouldn’t be in jail.” But none of these men were convicted of anything remotely related to the alleged Trump-Russia collusion, only for financial improprieties and process crimes derived from perjury traps set by inquisitors. The same is true with Roger Stone. Place anyone under oath talking continuously (Donald Trump Jr testified for 30 hours to the Senate Intelligence Committee), and then question them later a second time, and you’ll eventually catch them making a false statement. It sounds Kafkaesque, but this is exactly how both Crossfire Hurricane and the Mueller Probe managed to secure most of their convictions. 

Meanwhile, the DOJ has flatly refused to prosecute a number of high-profile government officials who were caught lying under oath multiple times, like former intelligence directors John Brennan and James Clapper, and former FBI heads James Comey and Andrew McCabe. Unlike Roger Stone’s campaign bluster and trivial fibs, their lies actually had grave implications for the institutions they were tasked to run, as well as for the country.

In the end, Roger Stone was the last available scalp for the Mueller brigade. His criminality was assumed under the guise of what is still an evidence-free theory that Russian GRU operatives hacked the DNC and Podesta and then gave those emails to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

This is one of the main process crimes that Stone was charged with - lying to the House Intelligence Committee about communicating with the Trump campaign about imminent WikiLeaks releases. There are more than a few problems with the prosecution’s foundational premise here. 

The first and most obvious point is that Julian Assange himself announced publicly on multiple occasions in the of summer 2016, including on both UK and US national TV, that more leaks would be released. Every journalist and political operative in the country was speculating and guessing about when the next WikiLeaks release was coming - including Roger Stone and his friend, American comedian and radio host who testified at the trial, Randy Credico, and Stone’s wingman in this story, author Jerome Corsi.  

One easy way to deflate this official conspiracy is to substitute WikiLeaks in this story with another media outlet like the New York Times, and then replace Julian Assange with another journalist like NYT editor Dean Baquet, and then plug-in Stone, Corsi and Credico – then there’s no scandal, no conspiracy, no Congressional hearings, and no basis for a criminal trial. It would just be Roger being Roger, and the press doing what it normally does, with everyone trying to gain an edge during a heated general election. Moreover, the document dumps were genuine and their content was most definitely in the public interest.

As American legal scholar Prof. Jonathan Turley noted in 2018, “Even if Stone received early word of the WikiLeaks release, it would not necessarily be a crime for Trump, his campaign, or Stone himself.”

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Reframing Reality 

Here is where Roger Stone’s case mirrors that of Julian Assange’s. As with Stone’s case, Official Washington’s entire legal narrative for Assange is underpinned by the assertion that WikiLeaks is not a press outlet, and that Assange is not a journalist and publisher. Both have been reframed for the purposes of enabling the 18 US indictments, as a ‘hostile foreign intelligence service’ and a criminal ‘cyber terrorist’, respectively.

It’s not exactly clear why the Trump Administration decided to go further than its predecessor Obama in charging Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act. The answer to that question might be that Eric Holder’s DOJ was not prepared to reframe WikiLeaks and Assange in the way that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and current Attorney General William Barr have done. Without this radical inversion of reality, the DOJ simply could not proceed with either case.

The prosecution’s foundational premise for Stone is further weakened by the fact that there was never any secret ‘back channel’ to WikiLeaks – not with Stone, Corsi, Credico, or UK associate Ted Malloch. In fact, if you look at the supposedly damning Twitter DM messages between Stone and the official WikiLeaks account (which were leaked to press by the House Intelligence Committee), they are actually exculpatory in nature, further proving that there was no relationship or exchange of information between them.

As for the charge of witness tampering and intimidation, arguably the most serious charge on Stone’s rap sheet, Randy Credico made it very clear in a recent letter he sent to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, that, “I never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me or to my dog.” His letter painted a telling image of Stone as someone who “enjoys playing adolescent mind games,” and “shamelessly invents and promotes outlandish and invidious conspiracy tales.”

It’s like putting PT Barnum on trial for telling tall tales. 

Unfortunately for Stone and his associates, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time in history, and reaped the whirlwind of a jaded DC establishment who have gambled and lost on what is perhaps the biggest political hoax in history.

Stone’s prosecution was purely political, and his charges were an erroneous basis for a criminal trial. If there was an ounce of shame left in Washington, the whole affair should be a national embarrassment. It would be a gross miscarriage of justice if he were to serve even one day prison for his flitting cameo in this Beltway drama.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.