Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone is out with a blustery, deceptive, conspiratorial statement attempting to explain why he claims that, until just recently, he forgot he met with a Russian who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton in 2016.
It isn’t very convincing.
To recap: Stone and another Trump adviser, Michael Caputo, admitted to the Washington Post this weekend that Caputo set up a meeting between Stone and a Russian national calling himself “Henry Greenberg” in May 2016 at a restaurant in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. Stone now claims that Greenberg asked him for $2 million in exchange for information about Hillary Clinton and he didn’t agree to it.
Neither Stone nor Caputo mentioned this meeting during sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last year. And Stone has previously claimed that he never talked “to anybody who was identifiably Russian” in the relevant period. So this sudden disclosure is pretty suspicious, to put it mildly.
So Stone is now out with a lengthy statement, the point of which is to repeatedly assert without any evidence whatsoever that the meeting was a setup arranged by the FBI, and to claim Robert Mueller is trying to “frame” him.
“The question isn’t why I didn’t recall this — since the results of this contact are inconsequential and in no way improper or illegal. The question is why was the FBI seeking to set me up,” Stone brazenly claims.
Actually, a big question still remains: Why didn’t Stone mention for nearly two years that he’d met with a Russian who, by his own account, asked him for $2 million for Clinton dirt — and why did he only “remember” it once Mueller got texts proving that it happened? Stone doesn’t even attempt to explain that.
Stone’s “FBI informant” claims aren’t supported by evidence
The closest Stone comes to giving an excuse for not disclosing the meeting is his evidence-free claim that it was a setup anyway — because, he says, the Russian was an FBI informant.
Now, the Washington Post reported this weekend that there is a 2015 court filing in which “Henry Greenberg” (under the name Henry Oknyansky) says that he’d previously been an FBI informant. However, he also says in that same filing that his FBI cooperation had concluded.
Stone cites this to repeatedly assert, with zero evidence, that “Comey’s FBI” was behind his meeting with Greenberg and the offer, because they wanted to “penetrate Trump’s circle and compromise him through me.”
Yet the timeline for this doesn’t line up with what we know of the FBI’s Russia investigation. The counterintelligence investigation was opened in July 2016, and Stone met Greenberg two months before that, in May.
Stone tries to confuse this a bit by saying the FBI tried to set him up “shortly after their outreach to John Popodolpous in April.” First, he means “George Papadopoulos,” but more importantly, if he is referring to FBI informant Stefan Halper’s contact with Papadopoulos, that occurred much later, in September.
The big picture, though, seems to be that Stone is trying to change the subject from why he didn’t disclose the meeting by piggybacking on right-wing media controversies like “Spygate,” and on the larger right-wing narrative that the Russia probe is a setup.
For good measure, Stone throws in the evidence-free assertion that he thinks Mueller’s investigators got hold of his texts “through an illegal FISA warrant.” Yet if Mueller did get a warrant regarding Stone, it’s entirely possible it was a legal one. For instance, as journalist Marcy Wheeler has pointed out, Mueller’s team disclosed in court that it got a warrant for five AT&T phones this March, shortly after Rick Gates became a cooperating witness and around the time Mueller’s grand jury questioning began to focus intently on Stone.
In any case, Stone seems to be expecting to be indicted by Mueller; he says in his statement that “the Special Counsel seems determined to frame me for some bogus offense.” So far, we’ve mainly had Stone and Caputo’s version of events of what happened around this curious meeting, so perhaps Mueller will add more to the story at some point.