Gregg Jarrett: Stone indictment shows no evidence of Trump-Russia ‘collusion’

The indictment of President Trump’s former political adviser Roger Stone – who was arrested Friday on charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering – demonstrates yet again that there is no known evidence of Trump-Russia “collusion.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating allegations since May 2017 that Donald Trump or people on his presidential campaign may have worked with Russia to win the 2016 election. There’s no question that if Mueller believed he had proof of such activity the special counsel would have charged Stone with some collusion-related offense involving a conspiracy.

Significantly, Stone wasn’t charged with anything involving collusion. In fact, not a single person has been charged with the alleged crime Mueller was appointed to investigate.

FBI'S SHOW OF FORCE IN ROGER STONE ARREST SPURS CRITICISM OF MUELLER TACTICS

Instead, in his indictment of Stone, Mueller chose to do what he has done so often – bring charges that were generated by his own investigation. These are commonly referred to as “process crimes.” That is, they are offenses against the legal process. Such offenses typically occur when someone interferes with the procedures of an investigation.

Nowhere in Mueller’s indictment is it alleged that Stone conspired, coordinated or colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

This is not to minimize “process crimes.” They are serious violations of the law. No person should ever lie, mislead or obstruct a legitimate law enforcement investigation.

However, the distinction between a principle crime and a process crime is significant. The former is an independent criminal act. The latter is derived from the investigation into whether such an act ever occurred.

“I will plead not guilty to these charges,” Stone told reporters after his arrest and appearance in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "I will defeat them in court. This is a politically motivated investigation."

So far, Mueller’s exhaustive probe has produced no evidence and no indictments in support of his original mandate. The special counsel has little to show for his efforts that have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and hobbled the president with unfounded accusations from the moment he took office.

So far, Mueller’s exhaustive probe has produced no evidence and no indictments in support of his original mandate. The special counsel has little to show for his efforts that have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and hobbled the president with unfounded accusations from the moment he took office. 

The inexorable truth is that a nefarious plot supposedly hatched between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the bowels of the Kremlin was a hoax all along – it simply never happened.

As President Trump has said many times, “there was no collusion.”

In fact, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for unverified Russian information and then fed it to the FBI and Justice Department in a scheme to damage Trump, her political opponent.

Hence, Trump-Russian “collusion” was nothing more than a clever and devious invention. Clinton-Russian “collusion” was authentic and one of the dirtiest tricks in modern American politics.

The FBI became complicit in the scheme to frame Trump in a series of wrongful, if not corrupt, decisions.

First, the bureau should never have launched its initial investigation in July 2016 that later developed into the Mueller probe. It had no probable cause and no credible evidence to justify its probe.

Second, the FBI should never have misused an unverified anti-Trump “dossier” composed by a discredited and biased source in order to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser. In the process, the FBI and Justice Department withheld evidence from an intelligence court and deceived the judges who issued the wiretap warrants.

And finally, a special counsel should never have been appointed. Under federal regulations there must first be some evidence of a crime to appoint a special counsel. No such evidence existed.

Had it not been for the misconduct of the FBI and the Justice Department, there would never have been an investigation for Stone to allegedly obstruct – meaning that no indictment would have been handed down against him.

The plain truth is that the improper existence of Mueller’s investigation created the crimes Stone stands accused of committing.

The indictment against Stone suggests he may have had some advance knowledge or inside information about the content of hacked Clinton campaign emails that were released by WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016.

WikiLeaks has never said how it obtained the emails. It has been reported that Russian intelligence operatives were responsible for the hacks.

While Stone’s efforts to garner details about the emails and pass them along to the Trump campaign surely makes for a tantalizing story, this activity is not a crime. At the time, hundreds of journalists – including me – were contacting sources or attempting to elicit further information directly from WikiLeaks. None of us has been accused of a crime.

Stone appears to have speculated or projected that the hacked emails would be highly damaging to Clinton’s campaign. This, of course, was stating the obvious.

An examination of Stone’s emails shows that he offered little more than the same information that WikiLeaks had already stated publicly. Stone’s mistake, if any, is that he created the appearance that he knew more than he actually did.

But millions of people exaggerate their knowledge about all sorts of things every day to make themselves seem smarter or more important than they really are. They don’t wind up getting charged with committing any crimes.

Unless it can be shown that Stone was somehow involved in the actual hacking of the Clinton emails, he violated no felony laws. This is why he was not charged with a conspiracy crime.

Five of the charges against Stone are for making false statements during the Mueller investigation. These will be exceedingly difficult for the special counsel to prove. The statute governing these offenses (18 U.S.C. 1001) requires proof that the false statements be made “knowingly and willfully.”

A faulty memory or a diminished recollection is not sufficient to sustain the specific intent requirement of the criminal charge. If Stone recalled events differently than Mueller interprets them it is not a crime.

Moreover, Stone amended some of his testimony with corrected statements. These this will be introduced as evidence in his defense.

The charges of witness tampering and obstruction of an investigation may be more problematic for Stone. Much will depend on the facts as they are developed.

For now, Mueller’s indictment of Stone should be read through a skeptical lens. Prosecutors only present their own slanted version of events. At trial, Stone’s defense attorneys will present his countervailing evidence and arguments. Like all defendants, Stone must be presumed innocent unless prosecutors can prove him guilty.

Sadly, Mueller’s “process charges” against Stone and others in the Trump orbit represent selective and unequal prosecution when compared with their treatment of allies of Clinton.

Neither top Clinton aides Huma Abedin nor Cheryl Mills were charged with giving false statements to the FBI during their 2016 interviews about Clinton’s email scandal, in which Clinton improperly used a private email server instead of the required State Department secure email system when she was secretary of state.

Abedin and Mills both insisted they knew nothing about Clinton’s private email server until after she departed the State Department. Yet email exchanges proved their statements were clearly false.

Former FBI Director James Comey said that no prosecutions of Abedin and Mills were justified, dismissively telling the House Judiciary Committee: “There’s always conflicting recollections of facts.”

This from the same guy who twisted the facts and contorted the law to clear Clinton from the felony statutes she so flagrantly violated. Comey misconstrued the law in a manner that could only have been deliberate. He then weaponized the law to investigate Trump without legal justification or credible evidence.

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The same double-standard of justice is now being applied by Comey’s long-time friend and ally, Robert Mueller.

President Trump’s enemies are desperate to find something – anything – in the Mueller investigation that points to wrongdoing by Trump because they want to see the president impeached and forced from office. So far, nothing that has been made public is the “smoking gun” they fantasize about that could show Trump engaged in any criminal activity.

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