In anticipation of the special counsel’s final report earlier this year, the most common meme was, “It’s Mueller Time!” However, as we now know, that brew turned out to have a shelf-life of less than two years and therefore was quite flat. There were any number of explanations why the report, despite substantial references to contacts between Russians, Russian surrogates and the Trump campaign plus ten documented instance of obstruction of justice in the aftermath of the 2016 election, did not have a more devastating impact on Trump’s fate. These included Attorney General Bob Barr’s mis-characterization of the findings, numerous redactions, Robert Mueller’s unwillingness to reach conclusions and his less than scintillating Congressional testimony.
In light of testimony during the first week of Roger Stone’s trial for trafficking in the hacked DNC emails, perjury (lying to the FBI) and witness tampering, it is clear that “Mueller Time” was more about “Mueller Timing.” Already, some of the key witnesses have started to fill in the gaps behind the lines of black Magic Marker which mask critical passages in Mueller’s report. For example:
- Former Trump campaign manager and White House political advisor Steve Bannon has confirmed Stone bragged about his on-going communications with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
- New York radio personality Randy Credico testified Stone pressured him to provide false information during the Mueller probe, even threatening to kill his service dog.
- And just yesterday, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates confirms that he was with Trump while the then candidate was on the phone with Stone discussing a future release of more stolen DNC emails. Gates said his account could be validated by the two secret service officers who were also in the car.
This third point is most damning as it counters Trump’s written answers to Mueller that he had no recollection of talking to Stone about WikiLeaks. Of course, Trump can probably sidestep perjury charges as he couched his responses in the guilty defendent’s mantra of choice, “I do not recall…”
All this begs one, and only one, question. Knowing that upcoming trials would give the Department of Justice a legitimate excuse to redact any information in the special counsel’s report which might bias the outcome of these trials, did Robert Mueller honestly believe it was more important to indict Stone than to make sure the public got the most complete version of his findings related to Russian interference in the 2016 election? I’m sorry, but this seems like a case of throwing out the baby to hold on to the bath water.
Roger Stone has been one of the most obnoxious and disgusting individuals on the American political scene for the past 50 years. And I for one will not shed any tears if he goes to jail for the rest of his life. But given the option, I would have sacrificed the pleasure of watching Stone squirm in front of a judge (which he has during the trial) if it meant the public would have earlier access to some of the most direct evidence of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. (NOTE: One can argue the release of a less redacted Mueller report might have deterred Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine just one day after Mueller’s Congressional testimony.)
Every one of the three witnesses referenced above were interviewed by the special counsel’s office. Mueller was aware of every fact that is now being disclosed during Stone’s trial. And consider the number of more important players he chose not to indict. Donald Junior who is on record as welcoming Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. Paul Manafort for conspiracy. Or Trump himself for obstruction of justice for personally drafting the false narrative about the July 2016 meeting with Russians or obstruction of justice when he refused to be interviewed by the special counsel or respond in writing to questions about previous obstruction of justice. Mueller, if he so desired, could have challenged the non-binding Justice opinion related to criminal indictment of a sitting president which has never been tested in the courts.
Having spent two years with Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Matt Whittaker and finally Bob Barr looking over his shoulder, Mueller should have known these Trump sycophants would use any opening to protect their leader. And he gave them more than one. We were told this was not surprising from someone who lived his life as “boy scout.” If that’s the case, give me a so-so Samaritan with a better sense of judgment.
POSTSCRIPT: SPEAKING OF TIMING
For the past couple of days, Trump has talked about releasing the transcript of an earlier phone call when he reached out to Ukraine president-elect Volodimyr Zelensky to congratulate him on his victory. As he always does, Trump is claiming this will vindicate him.
Of course, one’s first reaction is, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But strangely, we really should believe Trump this time. Here’s why. The Zelensky call occurred on April 12, 2019. What no one in the media has pointed out is the fact that Joe Biden was not a candidate for president at the time. Biden officially jumps into the race on April 25, 2019.
So, actually, a clean phone call on April 12 is more damning than the “stable genius” in the White House could imagine. If Trump does not raise the issue of Hunter Biden and Burisma Energy before the senior Biden is a candidate, the ONLY reason to raise it after April 25 is to seek foreign assistance in the 2020 election because Joe Biden is now a threat to Trump’s re-election. So much for the latest GOP non-starter defense, Trump’s state of mind showed no criminal intent. Then why would Trump wait until Biden was an official candidate before withholding the Congressionally appropriated support for Ukraine’s defense against further Russian incursion? It’s so obvious, one can hope even Lindsey Graham will understand it.
For what it’s worth.