Friday, January 25, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said that Roger Stone had nothing to do with him.

Trump's longtime friend and 2016 campaign advisor Roger Stone was arrested today on charges that he lied to Congress about what he knew about the Russian campaign to get Trump elected. He also faces charges of witness tampering for threatening another person whose testimony contradicted his own.

Trump insisted, via his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that Stone's arrest for trying to throw the Mueller probe off the scent of how Russia helped Trump get elected had nothing to do with Trump personally. Specifically, Sanders said that Stone's arrest for what appears to be the cover-up of the crimes committed by Russia and others to help Trump get elected had "nothing to do with the president, and certainly nothing to do with the White House." She added, "This is something that has to do solely with that individual, not something that affects us in this building."

It's true that Stone's indictment does not directly accuse Trump of being a co-conspirator in a crime—unlike, for example, Michael Cohen's sentencing memo. But it does say that Stone's involvement with Wikileaks (the organization that published e-mails stolen by Russian hackers from the DNC intended to embarrass Hillary Clinton) was on the orders of someone at the very top of the campaign:
After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by [WikiLeaks], a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [WikiLeaks].
The "senior Trump Campaign official" is almost certainly Steve Bannon. If it wasn't Trump himself who ordered Bannon to work with Stone to make sure that the Trump Campaign was in the loop about further Russian attacks on the election, it's not clear who was.

Trump insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing with respect to the election, and so he has denied any responsibility for all of the other Trump Campaign officials who have been indicted or convicted for crimes related to their secret dealings with Russian agents trying to subvert the election. These are: Paul Manafort (campaign chair), Rick Gates (deputy campaign chair), Michael Flynn (senior advisor and Trump's first National Security Advisor), and George Papadopoulos (foreign policy advisor).

Essentially, Trump's argument now seems to be that even if virtually everybody in his campaign was actively working with Russia—sharing secret voter-targeting data, enthusiastically taking meetings about "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, changing the GOP platform to a softer stance on Russia's occupation of Crimea, and so forth—no proof has emerged that Trump himself actively participated.

Why should I care about this?

  • This is incredibly damning even if Trump somehow didn't notice the massive criminal conspiracy between almost every senior official in his campaign and the hostile foreign power he begged on live TV to attack the election he won.