For two years now we've heard, "No collusion!" and "Witch hunt!" Such disparagement of special counsel Robert Mueller's work was never viable (e.g. we knew about the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 for well over a year); now it's simply wrong. Perhaps the new phrase, albeit not original, should be: What did President Donald Trump know, and when did he know it?
The indictment and arrest of Roger Stone were not unexpected, but the allegations should shake Republicans out of their slumber. We learn from the indictment:
"After the July 22, 2016, release of stolen [Democratic National Committee] emails by Organization 1 [WikiLeaks], a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1."
A senior official was allegedly directed to inquire about stolen emails. Who directed him, and if not Trump himself, did Trump know what was being done on his behalf?
Likewise, Mueller alleges:
"During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1."
And then there is this:
"On or about October 7, 2016, Organization 1 released the first set of emails stolen from the Clinton Campaign chairman. Shortly after Organization 1's release, an associate of the high-ranking Trump Campaign official sent a text message to STONE that read 'well done.' In subsequent conversations with senior Trump Campaign officials, STONE claimed credit for having correctly predicted the October 7, 2016 release."
In short, Mueller has evidence suggesting that the highest levels of the Trump campaign were using Stone to intercede with WikiLeaks, with its known collaborations with Russia, to assist in release of dirt on the campaign's opponents.
If Trump was directing campaign aides to intercede with Stone, and by extension, WikiLeaks, that "would plainly constitute another piece - a big one - in the mosaic of evidence showing that Trump was committing campaign-related crimes in coordination with Russia to rig the presidential election in his favor by knowingly weaponizing stolen information against his opponent," says constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe. "That mosaic could certainly establish a high crime warranting Impeachment. But I still believe that an intense and public fact-finding process by the House, starting now, needs to precede any formal decision on impeachment, without which the essential public consensus favoring Trump's removal won't emerge."
Mueller indicted Stone on multiple counts of lying to the House Intelligence Committee and also a count of witness-tampering. "It is a damning indictment that shows Stone tried to obstruct the investigation every step of the way to keep the truth from coming out," remarks former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. "The question now is are there even bigger secrets he is protecting, and if so, how far is he willing to go to protect them?"
Max Bergmann of the Moscow Project points out, "According to Trump himself, campaign staff, and embedded political reporters, the campaign was the Trump show. He was his own strategist and made every decision." He concludes, "It is simply impossible to believe that when it came to the most important campaign decision of all - whether or not to collude with Russia - Trump wasn't involved."
In addition to the extent of Trump's personal involvement and the identity of the Trump Organization's contacts with Stone (a New York Times report earlier in the year suggested former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was one contact), further questions abound. Former FBI special agent Clint Watts asks: "Why did Stone, after seeing the Mueller investigation start, make false statements to HSPI when it was highly likely his communications with Organization 1 would be discovered?" (Watts also wonders: "Will they charge WikiLeaks or not? That is one link for collusion if they are to pursue that.")
There are plenty of juicy and ludicrous tidbits in the indictment, such as Stone's alleged mob-like threats to others including a reference to "The Godfather: Part II." You cannot make something like this up:
"You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds," Stone told the person in an April 9 email. He also threatened to "take that dog away from you," and said, "I am so ready. Let's get it on. Prepare to die (expletive)."
Regardless of the luridness, no one - including Trump's dead-enders in the right-wing media - should fail to recognize how serious this is. We have collusion between Stone and WikiLeaks about a crime, stealing emails, and between Stone and a Trump campaign senior official about that activity. We will see which characters, if any, committed which crimes. But the president is a hair's breadth from being implicated in collusion (or knowledge of collusion). His efforts and all these associates' lies now make more sense.