Today, the trial for longtime Trump buddy Roger Stone finally got underway. For those of you having trouble keeping track of which of Trump’s friends, lawyers and campaign allies have been indicted for what, Stone is the longtime dirty-trickster political operative who fairly fell over himself in efforts to collude with Russian foreign intelligence hacking, seeking to coordinate whatever the hackers could bring him so that could be of best use to the Trump campaign. Stone attempted to do this via Julian Assange, whose WikiLeaks organization had been publishing the Russian-obtained material.
How successful he and his associates might have been at this coordination is not known—largely because Stone lied to investigators and Congress about those acts. And that, in turn, is why Roger Stone is now facing trial.
Stone is charged with obstruction, lying to Congress, and witness tampering, and there seems little doubt the government has the goods. Stone told Congress he didn’t have emails or other records relating to any efforts to contact Assange; prosecutors, on the other hand, do have those documents, as well as records of Stone prodding an associate to also lie to Congress. His pre-trial defense strategies have in accordance been desperate, silly, and quickly dispensed with; it seems all but certain that he will be joining other members of Trump’s innermost circle in prison.
As entertaining as that thought is, however, watching the forever two-bit Roger Stone sweat is not why political observers are keeping close tabs on the proceedings.
We know Stone lied about his interactions with WikiLeaks and his attempts to coordinate whatever Russian hackers could find, on one side, with Trump and Trump’s campaign on the other; we don’t know if, after arresting Stone in his not-pajamas and filtering through documents and records seized in the 18 search warrants against him, prosecutors have more concrete evidence of what Trump, Trump campaign head Paul Manafort, and others inside the Trump campaign knew about Stone’s efforts to contact and coordinate with the Russians.
Since his indictment, Stone has attempted to portray himself as a petty con-man who, rather than colluding with the hackers working to attack his political enemy, merely took advantage of the situation to pretend at a collusion that didn’t exist so as to boost his standing with Team Trump. (Team Trump, Stone’s defense implies, really likes people who do crimes on their behalf. A great way to gain influence with the big man.) The truth is a bit of both. There’s no question that Stone, as he has throughout his career, was both helping Trump’s team and running his own con on them as he bragged about what WikiLeaks might be doing and his own involvement.
But there’s also no question that Stone personally and with associates really, really, really tried to collude with the Russian hackers. Like Donald Trump Jr., prosecutors have suggested, he was just too damn dimwitted to pull it off.