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3 big takeaways from the Roger Stone indictment

WikiLeaks, dog threats, and Godfather references: Mueller’s indictment of the Trump ally and political trickster.

Political strategist Roger Stone
Roger Stone in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2018.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

Roger Stone, President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and adviser, has always had a reputation for using dirty political tricks.

Glimpses of those antics appear in special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Stone, who was arrested by the FBI early Friday morning in Florida. Stone has been charged with obstruction of official proceedings, making false statements, and witness tampering. The majority of the charges refer to Stone’s alleged lies to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. (Stone said Friday at a press conference that he’s been falsely accused.)

But as with many of Mueller’s indictments, this one tells a story: In this case, a story about Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks — referred to as “Organization 1” in court documents — during the presidential campaign.

And that story offers some insight into Stone’s interactions with the Trump campaign, including contact about WikiLeaks. It also includes several compelling and sometimes downright bizarre details about Stone’s alleged attempts to intimidate a witness — complete with a very weird threat against a guy’s dog.

Here are the three most interesting takeaways from Mueller’s latest indictment.

1) Trump campaign officials asked Stone to find out what else WikiLeaks had on Clinton

Federal prosecutors allege that after the July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks release of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s network, unnamed senior officials in the Trump campaign contacted Stone “to inquire about future releases” of potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Even more intriguing, prosecutors allege that a senior Trump campaign official “was directed to” reach out to Stone. The campaign official sought information on whether any more releases were expected.

This might be one of the biggest revelations from the indictment. It indicates the Trump campaign wanted to stay updated on what WikiLeaks had about Clinton, and that Stone was apparently the guy who kept them in the know.

But prosecutors don’t give any more details about who directed that campaign official to reach out to Stone. For that reason, the implication of this tidbit isn’t totally clear — but it certainly is tantalizing, and prosecutors almost certainly included it for a reason.

2) Email and text message evidence shows Stone was trying to get in contact with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign

Stone is charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee, a Congressional committee that had been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, about discussions he had with others about WikiLeaks.

Stone denied having emails, texts, and other documents about these discussions, but the indictment makes it clear that Mueller has the receipts. Court papers describe multiple email and text exchanges between Stone and someone identified as “Person 1” — believed to be conservative pundit and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi — and “Person 2,” believed to be radio host Randy Credico.

The emails don’t leave much to the imagination. In them, Stone refers to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who was granted asylum and has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012.

Here’s a sample of some of those messages. In one, dated July 25, 2016 (after the DNC email dump), Stone tells Corsi to “get to” Assange at the “Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending” WikiLeaks “emails ... they deal with the [Clinton] Foundation, allegedly.”

Stone also received an email on August 2, 2016, from Corsi in which he stated: “Word is friend in embassy” — meaning Assange — “plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”

There are also messages between Stone and Credico that tell a similar story, with Stone trying to use Credico to get in touch with Assange in order to get more dirt on Clinton’s campaign. Here’s one exchange from September 2016:

Stone had previously testified that Credico was his sole “go-between” with Assange. But the email exchanges with Corsi show that he was talking to both men. Stone was charged for lying about that, too, though it’s still not clear why he tried to conceal his communications with Corsi and not Credico.

3) Stone’s style of witness tampering allegedly includes making Godfather references and dog threats

As mentioned above, Stone testified to the House Intelligence Committee that Credico served as the sole intermediary between him and Assange. Afterward, Stone asked Credico to back up his lie, according to the indictment.

Credico repeatedly asked Stone to correct his testimony. But Stone refused — and when Credico was asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017, Stone tried to convince Credico to lie in support of Stone’s initial testimony.

And Stone did this quite colorfully, according to prosecutors. Stone told Credico that he should claim that Credico was Stone’s only contact to Assange, or that he didn’t remember what he told Stone — or what Stone referred to as pulling a “Frank Pentangeli,” a reference to a character in The Godfather: Part II who recants testimony during a fictional Senate hearing. Stone made the analogy in a December 1, 2017, text message.

Credico informed the House Intelligence Committee on December 12, 2017, that he would assert his Fifth Amendment right if he were subpoenaed to testify. According to prosecutors, Credico invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in part to “avoid providing evidence that would show Stone’s previous testimony to Congress was false.”

But Stone and Credico continued to discuss the Russia investigation, according to prosecutors, and Stone repeatedly made it clear that Credico would pay if he talked to law enforcement and contradicted Stone’s statements.

In one exchange, on April 9, 2018, Stone emailed Credico calling him a “rat” and a “stoolie” — a reference to ”a stool pigeon, a hilariously Godfather-esque slang term for an informant.” Stone then threatened to steal Credico’s therapy dog, before later deciding he would just threaten Credico’s life instead.

To be fair to Stone, Credico’s dog might know some things: Bianca joined Credico when he testified before the Mueller grand jury in September.