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Mueller’s Real Target in the Roger Stone Indictment

January 26, 2019 in Economics

By Julian Sanchez

Julian Sanchez

For many, Friday’s arrest of Roger Stone, the veteran
political trickster and longtime adviser to Donald Trump, was a
sign that the special counsel investigation into Russian electoral
interference is entering its final phase. Yet there were also
several indications that the probe may not be as near its
conclusion as many observers assume — and that the true
target of Friday’s F.B.I. actions was not Mr. Stone himself,
but his electronic devices.

Mr. Stone’s early-morning arrest at his Florida home
unsurprisingly dominated coverage, but reports also noted that federal agents were
“seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Mr.
Stone’s apartment in Harlem, and his recording studio in
South Florida was also raided.” The F.B.I., in other words,
was executing search warrants, not just arrest warrants. Even the
timing and manner of Mr. Stone’s arrest — at the
absolute earliest moment allowed under federal rules of criminal
procedure without persuading a judge to authorize an exceptional
nighttime raid — suggests a concern with preventing
destruction of evidence: Otherwise it would make little sense to
send a dozen agents to arrest a man in his 60s before sunrise.

We may ultimately look
back on Mr. Stone’s arrest not as the beginning of the special
counsel’s endgame, but the point when the investigation began to
really heat up.

The indictment
itself — which charges Mr. Stone with witness tampering,
obstruction of justice and false statements to Congress —
takes little imagination to translate into a search warrant
application, and also hints at what Robert Mueller might be looking
for. In describing the lies it alleges Mr. Stone told a House
committee, the document places great emphasis on Mr. Stone’s
denial that he had any written communications with two associates
— associates with whom he had, in fact, regularly exchanged
emails and text messages. That’s precisely the sort of
behavior one might focus on in seeking to convince a recalcitrant
judge that an investigative target could not be trusted to turn
over documents in response to a subpoena, requiring the more
intrusive step of seizing Mr. Stone’s devices directly.

Of course, as the indictment also makes clear, the special
counsel has already managed to get its hands on plenty of Mr.
Stone’s communications by other means — but one seeming
exception jumps out. In a text exchange between Mr. Stone and a
“supporter involved with the Trump Campaign,” Mr.
Mueller pointedly quotes Mr. Stone’s request to “talk
on a secure line — got WhatsApp?” There the direct
quotes abruptly end, and the indictment instead paraphrases what
Mr. Stone “subsequently told the supporter.” Though
it’s not directly …read more

Source: OP-EDS