Procedural Dispute in Stone Case Highlights Trump Campaign Collusion With Russian GRU.
On February 15th a follow up filing in the Roger Stone case brought home just how close some of the cases against Trump associates are to direct collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian GRU. Keep this in mind when Trumpers say Mueller is not even alleging collusion.
Mueller is saying the case against Roger Stone is so closely tied to the election interference charges also filed against the Russian GRU, that they are legally “related cases.” Mueller argues the two cases are bound, arising so strongly out of the same events and transactions, that judicial economy is served by the two cases sharing the same judge.
The media is jumping on the filing because it directly states that information gathered from search warrants prove communications between Stone and Wikileaks (an agent of the Russian GRU) and between Stone and Guccifer 2.0 (just flat out the Russian GRU). That is significant. But the greater procedural context associated with this filing is even more so.
Stone was assigned the same judge as the Manafort case. Most assumed that was a random draw. It wasn’t, though not necessarily related to Manafort.
When filing an indictment, prosecutors are routinely required to identify related cases. When doing so in the indictment brought against Roger Stone, Mueller’s Special Prosecutor’s Office cited United States v. Netyksho et al. That is the case Mueller already filed against Russian members of the GRU who meddled in the election.
It’s helpful to remember what the 12 Russians are charged with in the Netyksho case. The defendants in that case are 12 specifically identified members of the Russian GRU who engaged in conspiracy, and that:
“The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
These 12 Russian GRU agents are charged with computer hacking, multiple accounts of identity theft, money laundering, and conspiracy against the United States.
Because Stone’s case was supposedly related to this Netyksho case against the Russian GRU it was, in the interest of judicial economy, assigned to the same judge. So not a random selection.
Stone filed a motion objecting to this, seeking that the court declare Stone’s case unrelated to the Netyksho case, so that the judge would then be randomly assigned (with any luck to a different judge).
The filing on February 15th linked above is Mueller’s opposition brief to Stone’s motion. It argues the cases are related. Mueller, citing the rule applicable to the court, first argues the cases are related because they arise from the same search warrant.
“As alleged in the Netyksho indictment, in 2016, the Netyksho defendants stole documents from the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Clinton campaign chairman. Those defendants then released many of the stolen documents, including through a website maintained by Organization 1. In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1. Evidence obtained from those search warrants resulted in the allegations that the Netyksho defendants hacked and stole documents for release through intermediaries, including Organization 1, and that Stone lied to a congressional committee investigating, among other things, the activities of Organization 1 regarding those stolen documents.”
For the record, “Organization 1” is Wikileaks. So search warrants related to the Russian GRU defendants unearthed communications between them and Stone, that Mueller elsewhere asserts Stone then shared with the Trump Campaign. It gets worse.
Mueller also argues that Stone’s case and the Netyksho case are related because:
criminal cases are related when “prosecution against different defendants arises from . . . activities which are a part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction.”
Put simply, Mueller alleges that Stone’s illegal acts are part of the same criminal transactions done by the Russian GRU. Some may say that Stone is not charged with those same criminal transactions, which is true. To which Mueller’s brief replies that the cases can be so related, “ regardless of whether the related activities are charged in both cases.”
Let that sink in. Mueller is clearly suggesting that he could charge Stone with some of the stuff charged against the Russians, he just hasn’t . . . yet. As Mueller puts it:
“[Stone’s] false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including [Wikileaks]), and U.S. persons (including [Stone]).
It’s also important to remember how closely Mueller alleges Stone was working with the Trump Campaign (and the Trump Campaign was working with him). In regards to his joint transactions with the Russian GRU and its agents, Stone’s indictment states:
STONE was an official on the U.S. presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) until in or around August 2015, and maintained regular contact with and publicly supported the Trump Campaign through the 2016 election.
During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about [Wikileaks] and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by [Wikileaks] . . .
By in or around June and July 2016, STONE informed senior Trump Campaign officials that he had information indicating [Wikileaks] had documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The head of [Wikileaks] [Julian Assange] was located at all relevant times at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, United Kingdom.
After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by [Wikileaks], a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information [Wikileaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [Wikileaks].
Who told a “senior Trump Campaign official” to contact Roger Stone to get more damaging information from Wikileaks is not known, but I believe it was Trump himself.
From the Russian GRU to Stone to the Trump Campaign, the collusion is there. It’s so strong that Mueller is, in some sense, partially merging his case against the Russian GRU with his case against Stone. That is the real significance of the January 15th filing by Mueller in the Stone case.