It was disappointing to read that President Donald Trump’s former associate Roger Stone was convicted of all charges against him on Friday, November 15, 2019.
That day, the BBC reported:
US President Donald Trump’s adviser Roger Stone has been convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
The court heard he lied about his efforts to learn more about when WikiLeaks would publish damaging emails about Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The jury returned its verdict on day two of deliberations in Washington DC.
Witness tampering carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The other counts can carry five years each.
The court heard Stone lied in September 2017 during his testimony to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the US elections a year earlier …
Prosecutors told the court that Stone had made the false statements to protect Mr Trump’s image.
Stone maintained the case against him was politically motivated.
Yes, there does appear to be an element of political motivation in the court case and the verdict.
Stone has been unable to communicate anything about the case for months, a court order that Politico says is still in effect:
[Judge Amy Berman Jackson] did take the unusual step of keeping Stone under the prohibitive restrictions in force for months, including a gag order that restricts him from speaking publicly or using social media to discuss his case.
He was also unable to continue in his sidekick role on Owen Shroyer’s daily show for Alex Jones.
Stone’s wife is deaf. Their financial situation is precarious. He has at least one grandchild, now two or three years old, who used to appear in Stone’s segments for Alex Jones.
Stone’s sentencing will take place in February 2020.
With all that has been going on in the United States over the past decade, this verdict is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Trump supporters largely do not care about Roger Stone. Some would agree with Democrats that he is crooked, but he had no criminal record before this case, which started out with an early morning FBI raid on his home in Fort Lauderdale. He subsequently lost that home. Last I’d heard, he and his wife had a flat elsewhere there, but that was well over a year ago.
Democrats, however, will see this as a convenient and welcome wedge through which to pursue Trump further. A Democrat friend wrote me recently to say, ‘Whenever I hear Trump news I think of you and laugh.’ To them, he and his associates really are crooks.
The Mueller report from earlier this year might have been small beer to Trump supporters, but, as Vanity Fair reports, it damaged people around Trump during his 2016 campaign. Paul Manafort was among them. That, too, seemed political, as the Obama administration had previously closed a file on him. Others were also involved (emphases in the original):
The conviction makes Stone, who for decades occupied the fringes of Washington as a self-styled dirty trickster, the latest of a slew of Trump associates to be found or to have pleaded guilty to charges since Trump assumed office. George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide; Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser; Manafort, his former campaign chairman; and Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, were all ensnared in the Mueller probe. Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney and fixer, is serving a prison sentence after pleading guilty to several charges, including campaign finance violations he said he committed at the direction of his boss.
That so many in Trump’s orbit have been arrested, convicted, or otherwise investigated speaks, of course, to the character of the man currently occupying the Oval Office. Trump, already on edge as witnesses offer testimony about his pressure campaign in Ukraine as part of the House impeachment inquiry, railed against Stone’s conviction in a Twitter rant Friday, suggesting that his foes—including Mueller—should be jailed for unnamed crimes.
This is the tweet in question:
So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie?….
….A double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?
Most Trump supporters are well aware of the shady dealings of numerous prominent Democrats and their supporters, e.g. Robert Mueller. Their dealings are not exactly ‘unnamed crimes’, as Vanity Fair puts it, and have been widely discussed on conservative talk shows as well as online media outlets for several years now.
So, we have two different sets of optics: one for Trump supporters and one for Democrats.
The same holds true for the impeachment proceedings. I can understand why my friend hears reports about them and laughs in my general direction.
Friday’s news included many positive Dem talking points about the hearings.
The Independent reported that the former US ambassador to Ukraine received a standing ovation after finishing her testimony because Trump had tweeted about her during the day:
Marie Yovanovitch received a standing ovation following her public testimony in Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, in which the ousted ambassador to Ukraine was attacked by the president in a series of controversial tweets.
The audience stood and cheered for the career diplomat as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff ordered the meeting to a close, marking a rare moment in American politics. Citizens who sit in on congressional hearings are typically instructed to remain silent and respect decorum by abstaining from any audible outbursts.
Ms Yovanovitch was … asked in real time about the president’s tweets. She told Mr Schiff such attacks from the president were “intimidating” and that she did not understand why he would falsely smear her reputation.
Trump maintains he did nothing wrong:
Mr Trump later defended his attacks against Ms Yovanovich by saying that he wasn’t trying to intimidate a witness, and that he’s entitled to speak his mind as the investigation plays out.
“It’s a political process, not a legal process”, the president said. “I’m allowed to speak up.”
This is the tweet:
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.
However, former prosecutor Ken Starr, who led the investigation into Bill Clinton in the 1990s and who has remained neutral in the Trump proceedings, criticised the tweet. The Independent quoted Starr from his Friday appearance on Fox News:
‘The president was not advised by counsel in deciding to do this tweet,’ Mr Starr said. ‘Extraordinarily poor judgment… Obviously this was quite injurious.’
The Independent‘s article says that Fox News’s Brett Baier explained the seriousness of the tweet to viewers:
‘This whole hearing turned on a dime when the president tweeted about her real-time, and during the questioning Adam Schiff stopped the Democratic questioning to read the president’s tweet to her, and get her response,’ Mr Baier said. ‘Now that enabled Schiff to then characterise that tweet as intimidating the witness or tampering the witness, which is a crime. Adding, essentially, an article of impeachment real-time as this hearing was going on.’
He continued: ‘That changed this entire dynamic of this first part of this hearing and Republicans now are going to have to take the rest of this hearing to probably try to clean that up.’
Yes, I can understand that perspective fully. My friends and family, all of whom trust mainstream media, will believe it.
That said, an astute commenter on the article provided the rest of the story:
Because shifty Schiff withheld the full tweet to the house, most commentators couldn’t judge the tweet in context. Schiff deliberately left out the part “Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him”.
I still think it was ill advised of Trump to tweet anything during this hearing and should have waited until it was over. However when lying Adam Schiff pulls a stunt like this, most of us couldn’t possibly get the full context of what was tweeted. That’s why Schiff didn’t want open hearings so he could tamper with basement transcripts to be released publicly and certainly not have the whistle-blower appear in public.
When looked at in totality, Trump’s tweet certainly wasn’t intimidation as no threat was present, and the key takeaway was Zelensky didn’t want her as an Ambassador due to her ’previous’ with former President Poroshenko. It’s clear that Yovanovitch failed to tread a path of neutrality with Poroshenko and was even complicit in his pro Clinton interference both in the Ukraine and the USA. Even in testimony she admitted she did nothing about it and as a consequence wasn’t trusted by Zelensky. The truth is Zelensky got her fired which his quite entitled to do by refusing to accept her as an Ambassador. Diplomacy requires trust, Zelensky couldn’t trust Yovanovitch and said as much on the phone call, its that simple.
True. However, that will never come out in mainstream media.
And, the Democrats will take this and run with it. Another article from The Independent states that Dems could add Trump’s tweet from Friday into the impeachment charges. Hillary Clinton, unsurprisingly, also chimed in:
In the midst of a hearing which was already pretty bad news for Donald Trump, the focus suddenly shifted to whether or not he has intimidated a witness, and whether that in itself is an impeachable offense …
The attack is even being “considered” for one of the articles of impeachment, according to Eric Swalwell, one of the Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee. Hillary Clinton didn’t mince her words, saying: “Witness intimidation is a crime no matter who does it. Full stop.”
Then one of Mike Pence’s aides, Jennifer Williams, came out against Trump during her testimony. On Saturday, November 16, investigators released a transcript of her closed-door deposition. Politico has the story:
Jennifer Williams, who serves as Pence’s special adviser for Europe and Russia, told investigators in early November that she took notes while she listened in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from the White House Situation Room, adding that she viewed Trump’s requests for investigations as politically motivated.
“I found the specific references to be — to be more specific to the president in nature, to his personal political agenda, as opposed to a broader … foreign policy objective of the United States,” Williams said, according to a transcript of her closed-door deposition released Saturday.
Williams also told investigators that she put a hard copy of the call transcript in Pence’s briefing book, but did not know whether he had read it.
Williams is not an Obama holdover. She began her career in Homeland Security in 2005 under Bush II and joined the State Department the following year. She held a number of diplomatic positions before becoming Pence’s aide in April 2019.
Public impeachment hearings continue next week.
Trump tweeted a short video of impeachment testimony yesterday, ‘At the end of the week, Democrats are 0-3’, the text to which follows:
3 witnesses who cannot name an impeachable offense: Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Yovanovitch
3 witnesses who weren’t on the call: Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Yovanovitch
3 witnesses who haven’t spoken to the president this year: Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Yovanovitch
The third witness, left unmentioned, is probably Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.
In a further ‘blow’, as Democrats would consider it, Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, won a re-election run-off on Saturday. In the past fortnight, Trump had made three public appearances in Louisiana — two rallies and a football game — in order to get voters to defeat him at the ballot box. Politico reported:
‘Our shared love for Louisiana is always more important than the partisan differences that sometimes divide us,’ Edwards said in his victory speech Saturday night, alluding to the national GOP forces that opposed him. ‘And as for the president: God bless his heart.’
The result was close, mirroring the first result that led to the run-off:
Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, narrowly defeated Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, 51 percent to 49 percent, according to The Associated Press.
Edwards has been part of Louisiana politics since 2011, therefore, it is unsurprising that he won. However, I do think that Trump’s appearances made the race much closer than it might have been.
In wrapping the latest news up, the US sees the Trump presidency through two different optics, whatever the subject.
On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberley Strassel tweeted this intro to her editorial on the impeachment hearings:
Impeachment is meant to be a big deal, but Democrats and the media have accomplished the disturbing feat of turning it into day-to-day partisan warfare …
One of the people replying to the tweet said the Democrats would pay a heavy price because the hearings are a ‘sham’.
But someone else disagreed. The last sentence makes this the tweet of the week for me (emphasis mine):
They won’t and they know it. So many people aren’t paying attention and just vote for letters next to a name. Go to left leaning Twitter accounts and they think it’s already over for Trump based on the first day. We’re watching the same movie on 2 different screens!
I could not agree more.
Despite record unemployment for all demographic groups, despite record stock market highs, despite investments shooting through the roof — even my laughing friend freely admitted that — half of America still sees Trump as a criminal. There’s no convincing them otherwise, sadly.