Roger Stone was found guilty of multiple felony counts by a jury. He had a sentencing recommendation of 7 to 9 years, based on existing guidelines and mitigating circumstances. President Trump tweeted his displeasure about the sentencing recommendation, and it has been dramatically reduced. The four Justice Department lawyers assigned to the case have walked away from their positions because of the blatant corruption. President Trump has made it clear he is considering a pardon for Stone anyway. Lindsey Graham , as the person in charge of investigating judicial corruption in the Senate, has stated that he will not call for AG Barr to testify about the apparent abuse of power.
This is all being excused on the Republican side with the canard of “everyone does it”… a blatant fallacy, spurred by the truth that low-level threats and intimidation are part of negotiation. Everyone does, in fact, threaten to pull support for bills, withhold donations and engage in similar legal bargains in Washington. They do not regularly commit felonies, and when they do it is typically seen as an opening for their enemies to use against them. Without such a line in the sand, we risk a lawless political class. It is the height of foolishness to claim we have always had such a system when there are hundreds of successful criminal cases which demonstrate otherwise.
We have always had criminals engaging at the highest levels of politics. We have not always accepted their crimes, nor are all politicians criminals.
Another defense of Stone is that the foreman for his jury had posted negatively about Trump on social media. This is true, and conclusively indicates a bias against Trump. That bias does not mean that the person was incapable of rendering a just verdict, nor does it reflect the opinions of others on the jury… others who, based on the mechanisms of jury selection, were likely mixed with biases toward or against President Trump but did not have detailed knowledge of nor existing strong feelings toward Roger Stone. Arguing that somehow all juries must consist of people who are not merely unbiased against a defendant but must not have feelings toward anyone or anything associated with the defendant is a direct attack on the jury system itself, because such a guarantee can never be made. They are, in their effort to excuse Trump’s corrupt actions regarding Stone, undermining our system of Constitutional law.
A third defense is the classic “whataboutism”, relating back to the notion that “everyone does it”. Examples being used are the traitorous Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Sandy Berger’s removal of notes from the National Archives. What is being lost there is that Manning’s sentence commutation was accompanied by justifiable outrage from many on the right, and Berger’s punishment was exactly what had been offered to him as a plea deal by prosecutors.
Defenses and drama are what are being used to keep the focus on the current moment. What should be addressed are Stone’s actions and the results of them. This is at the core of why he is being treated as if he had full immunity from any crime.
The crimes for which Stone was found guilty were not simple things like his repeated violations of gag orders or his apparent Instagram threat against the life of the presiding judge. They were associated directly with impeding and stymieing the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Mueller Report which developed from that investigation found no evidence of conspiracy between the Trump administration and the Russians, but it documented repeated attempts at conspiracy. The evidence they uncovered showed only that the Trump team provided Russia what Putin wanted, but Russia did not provide direct assistance or coordination with the Trump team in response.
The Mueller Report therefore paints the picture of an incompetent Trump campaign, willing to sell out their country’s election system but unable to arrange the specifics.
The opening of the Mueller Report explains why this is not necessarily a complete picture. Page 10 explains that they sometimes received contradictory testimony. It also contains a telling sentence: “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.”
The Mueller Report is replete with statements indicating that facts were not established; it also makes clear that in many cases, critical documents were destroyed and false testimony was provided. To be clear: the Mueller Report does not say there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, it says that conspiracy could not be proven, while giving many indicators that such a conspiracy did, in fact, exist.
And this brings us back to Roger Stone.
A key figure in the investigation, his actions are among those most likely to have prevented any findings of conspiracy if, in fact, the threads of evidence supporting it were to be tied together anywhere. Punishing him for his crimes is meant to be a warning to others who may stonewall and obstruct justice on events which strike at the heart of our system of governance. In the event that Trump were actually innocent of the charges for which he claims to have been unjustly accused, he would have only his devotion to loyalty and his long familiarity with Stone as reasons for leniency.
These have not been enough to save people like Michael Cohen. Why Roger Stone?
The question should be honestly asked. Few, if any, Republicans are willing to ask it, because it risks unraveling the narrative they’ve constructed.