by Bob Barr
The victory by President Trump and his team over the impeachment-pursuing Democrats was complete, and devastating. However, missing from the celebratory activities last week was one of Trump’s strongest, most consistent, and most loyal supporters – Roger Stone. Stone remains silenced under a federal court gag order that prevents him from publicly discussing anything about his conviction last November, even as he awaits sentencing for up to 25 years on February 20th. His case has been described as the last “loose end remaining from the Mueller investigation.” More accurately, it is the “last travesty of the Mueller investigation.”
The one thing people might remember from the government’s prosecution of Stone probably would be the massive, pre-dawn SWAT raid on his Ft. Lauderdale home on January 25, 2019. The reason this incident may be the only aspect of Stone’s case at all familiar to the public is because the government apparently notified CNN in advance of the raid so as to ensure it produced sufficient coverage to paint the 67-year old political consultant as dangerous and a “flight risk.”
Stone, who has been a decades-long supporter of Trump and assisted him early in his presidential campaign, was the target of a lengthy investigation by the FBI directed by Robert Mueller’s team of mostly Democrat-supporting lawyers searching vainly for Russian connections to the 2016 campaign. No such “collusion” was found, of course, but that did not slow Mueller’s quest to nail Stone’s scalp to his crumbling prosecutorial trophy wall.
Stone was never charged with any substantive criminal offenses. The best the government could do was charge him with lying to Congress when he appeared voluntarily as a witness in 2017 and a trumped-up charge of witness tampering. The federal judge assigned to preside over Stone’s federal trial was the same Obama-appointed judge who handled Mueller’s case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the still-languishing cases Mueller brought against several Russians accused of hacking Democrat National Committee computers in 2016. The appointment of Judge Amy Berman Jackson was far from a random assignment, as is supposed to be the norm.
It is noteworthy that aspects of the government’s prosecution of Stone bear an eerie resemblance to those of the Ukraine telephone-call controversy that lit the fuse for the Democrats’ impeachment of Trump.
For example, the individual who Stone allegedly threatened, and which formed the basis for the witness tampering charge against him, denied under oath at the trial that he ever felt threatened by Stone – precisely how Ukraine President Zelensky described the July 25, 2019 phone call with President Trump that the Democrats claimed was coercive and threatening.
Also, some of the government’s evidence against Stone was based on an uncorroborated, allegedly incriminatory 2016 phone call between Stone and President Trump involving leaks of information to Wikileaks. Former Manafort associate and convicted felon Rick Gates testified that he overheard the alleged call, even though he was not a party to it and could not hear the actual conversation. Both President Trump and Stone denied the conversation ever took place, but Judge Berman Jackson permitted the government to use it to convict Stone based on the second-hand, non-party testimony of Gates.
Stone’s trial was in many respects as one-sided as the impeachment effort against the President by House Democrats. Not surprising, Stone’s lawyers were barred from introducing evidence of misconduct by the Mueller Special Counsel team, the FBI, or even members of Congress (specifically, Rep. Adam Schiff, who has admitted he engaged in coordination with the Special Counsel’s office).
Stone himself has abided by Judge Berman Jackson’s constitutionally questionable post-conviction gag order. His wife and his many thousands of supporters, however, continue to raise serious and credible questions about the government’s motives underlying its investigation and prosecution of him. The vehemence by which the government continues to pursue Stone, including demands that he be taken into custody immediately upon sentencing later this month, belies its claims of fairness and due process.
President Trump should step in and exercise his pardon power to right the wrongs perpetrated against Roger Stone.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.