Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone was indicted on Friday on seven criminal counts of attempting to obstruct investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Five of those counts involved Stone’s alleged lying in testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) as part of its probe into Russia.
The special counsel’s office showed how Stone repeatedly misled the committee in an alleged effort to cover up his contacts with Wikileaks, which the Republican majority of the HPSCI identified in its final report as a Russian “proxy” that released Democratic emails that had been stolen by Russia in an effort to influence the 2016 election.
That heavily partisan Congressional investigation—led by Republican Reps. Devin Nunes, Mike Conaway, and former Rep. Trey Gowdy—covered a wide range of topics including the Trump campaign’s “involvement in or knowledge about the publication of stolen emails.” It also covered the actions of anyone officially affiliated with the campaign along with the actions of anyone unofficially affiliated with the campaign, defined as including “wannabes,” “hangers-on,” and “people who represented themselves as being part of the campaign.” Stone clearly fits into at least one of those categories.
Based on the committee’s questioning of him and others, the Republican majority released a 243-page final report announcing it had reached a broad conclusion in line with a key Trump talking point: “No collusion.” “The Committee did not find any evidence of collusion, conspiracy, or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” the report stated. “While the Committee found that several of the contacts between Trump associates and Russians—or their proxies, including Wiklleaks—were ill-advised,” it continued, “the Committee did not determine that Trump or anyone associated with him assisted Russia’s active measures campaign.”
How did the committee reach that determination? In its “collusion” section, the HSPSCI Republican report noted under “Finding #25” that “[w]hen asked directly, none of the interviewed witnesses provided evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”
These happen to be the precise areas that Stone is now alleged to have lied to the committee about. As the Democrats on the committee argued in a brutal counter-report released around the same time, the Republicans basically took Stone’s word for it (as well as those of other witnesses). Indeed, here is what the GOP report said about Stone:
Despite [multiple contacts with Russia proxies], the Committee did not find any evidence contradicting Stone’s claim that “(a)ny information … disseminated via social media regarding the timing of the release of the DNC data or others was from publicly available sources” and “he in no way conspired, colluded, or coordinated with any agent of the Russian state.”
Again, all of this is what Stone is now alleged to have repeatedly lied to the committee about.
Through its meticulous chronicling of Stone’s apparent falsehoods, Robert Mueller’s latest indictment also offered definitive proof of what the Democrats on that committee argued for months: That the Republican investigation purportedly exonerating Trump’s campaign of collusion was a whitewash.
Mueller’s indictment states that Stone lied about several areas that HSPSCI Republicans claimed to have investigated, including what those Republicans described as “contacts between Trump associates and Russians—or their proxies, including Wikileaks.”
Other false statements Stone told the committee during his testimony include:
· He possessed no emails or text messages that discussed Assange. (He did.)
· He had no written communication with an intermediary between him and Assange and only spoke to the person on the phone. (They had communicated regularly over text. And as Mueller notes in a sardonic aside, right around the date of this testimony the pair “exchanged over thirty text messages.”)
· He never spoke with anyone in the Trump campaign about Wikileaks’ plans as described by an intermediary.
He did communicate with the Trump campaign about the plans, according to the indictment. Mueller suggests that he has evidence that such communications—at the heart of any collusion claim—did occur. As the indictment explains:
a. On multiple occasions, [Stone] told senior Trump Campaign officials about materials possessed by [Wikileaks] and the timing of future releases. b. On or about October 3, 2016, [Stone] wrote to a supporter involved with the Trump Campaign, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.” c. On or about October 4, 2016, [Stone] told a high-ranking Trump Campaign official that [Assange] had a “[s]erious security concern” but would release “a load every week going forward.”
Soon after these communications, Wikileaks began releasing hacked emails of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the former ranking minority member who now leads the committee, told me last month that the previous committee leadership had basically declined to cooperate with Mueller. Schiff at the time promised he would make it a priority to hand over the committee’s previously withheld transcripts of testimony like Stone’s to Mueller. He appears to have done so, and it seems that testimony formed the basis of Friday’s principal charges against Stone.
In turn, Mueller’s indictment proves what those who observed the Republican House Russia probe saw for a long time: That investigation was little more than a farce.