Mueller’s selective prosecution of Stone, Venezuelan-style

Yet another selective prosecution has been designed to “get” the president, or at least another one of his friends.

In 2016, Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJudge finds Stone violated gag order, blocks him from using social media Counterprotesters outnumber far-right extremists at DC rally Judge orders Roger Stone to file rebuttal to allegation he violated gag order MORE, a volunteer in sometimes-contact with Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonRussian intel planted Seth Rich conspiracy theory: report Former Breitbart White House correspondent to join Trump administration Tillerson told lawmakers Kushner didn't alert him to Saudi meeting MORE of the Trump presidential campaign, wanted to know what was going on with WikiLeaks and how it might help Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE. Christopher Steele, employed by the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: Majority of Democratic voters happy with their choices among 2020 contenders No presidential candidate can unite the country GOP lawmakers speak out against 'send her back' chants MORE campaign, wanted to get dirt on Donald Trump to prevent him from becoming president. Both were trying to dig up fodder on their political opponent.

One stands indicted today, after a guns-drawn raid by the FBI — and the other is safely out of reach of Congress in London. 

Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE has, once again, found the man first and then the crimes created by the investigation. It looks to me like this is likely just about the final piece of his investigation, but only Mueller knows that for sure.

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The indictment reveals that Stone knew absolutely nothing before the initial public drops about what was going on with WikiLeaks. In fact, afterward, he was trying to find out through two of his connections whether WikiLeaks had more material it was going to leak and when it was going to leak that. For reasons that are unclear, Stone hid the name of his second source. Maybe he just promised anonymity to Jerome Corsi, a well-known conspiracy theorist, and was trying to keep that promise. Maybe Stone thought Corsi was so discredited (he is banned from most media) that he did not want to admit he was relying on someone no one believes about anything.

Oddly, around this same time, Glenn Simpson of opposition-research firm Fusion GPS tried to hide (and, for a time, did) the fact that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party paid for the anti-Trump dossier created by retired British spy Steele. That seems a far more relevant fact to Mueller’s investigation, going to the heart of the credibility of the allegations against Trump — and yet, no handcuffs on him.

It took court action in Britain to get to the truth about the Steele dossier. And note that Simpson stands accused by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in a formal Senate criminal referral, of falsely denying that the anti-Trump research project continued after the election and lying about the briefing of reporters on the dossier.

Let’s not forget that the same lawyer who organized the dossier research project sat next to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in congressional hearings as Podesta denied knowing the source of the funds. Either Podesta was not truthful here or the lawyer committed an enormous breach of ethics, since he had a conflict as a factual participant and knew the answer. That’s what real obstruction of a material fact looks like but, if you are the “good” guys with good lawyers, you need not sweat it.

Everyone in the world was trying to find out what was happening with WikiLeaks after it posted Hillary Clinton’s emails.

As special counsel Mueller notes, Roger Stone sometimes spoke with various members of the Trump campaign, sometimes was even asked for information. He is accused of hiding his second source, lying about having emails and texts that made some minor unanswered requests, and threatening the dog of his other source. Here is what Stone is NOT accused of lying about:

  1. That he did not know in advance that Podesta’s emails had been hacked.
  2. That he did not coordinate with WikiLeaks.
  3. That he was never in touch directly with WikiLeaks during this time.

The implication of this is that the president can’t be guilty of collusion that never happened. The president could well have asked someone to find out what Stone knew, but there would be a rather simple reason for doing so: Stone was broadcasting on Twitter, in interviews and in speeches, that he had an informant and that, through the informant, he knew about what was going on.

From Aug. 15 to Aug. 29, 2016, Stone literally was a chatterbox on social media. In an interview with now-banned host Alex Jones, Stone claimed he had “back-channel communications” and that “political dynamite” was on its way. In September, Stone said WikiLeaks would “drop a payload of new documents on a weekly basis fairly soon.” Come Oct. 1, Stone sent out a tweet predicting that Hillary Clinton will be “done.”

So much for a secret conspiracy.

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The entire sum and substance of those emails was not just communicated to potentially interested Trump campaign officials but already communicated in public for anyone to hear contemporaneously.

Stone will have an opportunity in court, as a matter of law, to win or lose on the specifics of how material his omissions were and why he was trying to keep Corsi out of his testimony. He is a first-time offender with no criminal record, and it appears after an extensive investigation of his personal, business and family ties, that this is all the Mueller team came up with.

This does not in any way prove collusion, any more than Hillary’s team colluded by seeking damaging information on Trump. And, because Stone broadcast everything publicly, this is far less material than something like the secret origins and undercover press briefings of the Steele dossier that influenced the FBI.

But it is another in a series of events that questions whether our legal system has devolved to that of Venezuela’s — one in which opposition political leaders are targeted for takedown and, if you’re on the “good” side, you simply smile your way through as the criminal legal referrals against you are tossed into the garbage can.

Mark Penn is a managing partner of the Stagwell Group, a private equity firm specializing in marketing services companies, as well as chairman of the Harris Poll and author of “Microtrends Squared.” He served as pollster and adviser to President Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during Clinton’s impeachment. You can follow him on Twitter @Mark_Penn.