Saturday, January 26, 2019

Stone Crazy

Via District of Calamity.

I hope you're not confused with the Roger Stone indictments by people claiming them as proof that "there was no collusion" because Stone is not accused, in point of fact, of interacting with any Russians in any of these instances, only with "Organization no.1", which is the thing called WikiLeaks. The main thing is it might as well have been Russians, since WikiLeaks had become, by this point in summer 2016 if not a good deal earlier, basically a Russian asset, curating and publishing materials stolen by Russian intelligence in the furtherance of Russian intelligence aims to weaken future president Hillary Clinton or even prevent her from getting elected.

In a relationship that went back to at least 2010, as Nancy LeTourneau just reminded us, and including at least at one point getting WikiLeaks some funding at a financially difficult moment for the organization (Nancy citing The New York Times, 1 September 2016):

In January 2011, the Kremlin issued Mr. Assange a visa, and one Russian official suggested that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. Then, in April 2012, with WikiLeaks’ funding drying up — under American pressure, Visa and MasterCard had stopped accepting donations — Russia Today began broadcasting a show called “The World Tomorrow” with Mr. Assange as the host. 
How much he or WikiLeaks was paid for the 12 episodes remains unclear. In a written statement, Sunshine Press, which works as his spokesman, said Russia Today “was among a dozen broadcasters that purchased a broadcasting license for his show.”
(This news provides a little extra energy to my own slightly paranoid theory that it was Russian intelligence hackers who stole the draft documents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that WikiLeaks curated and published between November 2013 and May 2016 and helped torpedo the agreement through what I was calling "Sputnik analyses" at the height of the 2016 campaign.)

Stone did have an apparently abortive meeting with a Russian calling himself "Henry Greenberg" who proposed to sell the Trump campaign some documents that would damage Hillary Clinton in May 2016, for $2 million, which he "forgot" to tell the House Intelligence Committee about (later, he very specifically recalled telling Greenberg, "You don't understand Donald Trump. He doesn't pay for anything"). That was just three or so weeks after Trump's foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, in London, heard from a mysterious "professor" who wanted to arrange a meeting between Trump and President Putin that the Russian government had "thousands of emails" providing "dirt" on Hillary Clinton (which Papadopoulos later lied to the FBI about, earning himself a felony conviction), and a couple of weeks before Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop singer and ex–son-in-law of the president of Azerbaijian and son of the property developer Aras Agalarov who'd been working on the site where the Moscow Trump Tower was supposed to go up, wrote to Donald Junior proposing a meeting to arrange getting the Trump campaign some "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.... as part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump".

But between 22 July 2016, when an as yet unidentified "senior Trump campaign official" (likely the Russia-connected Manafort or Gates) asked Stone, according to the indictment, to find out from WikiLeaks about any information damaging to Clinton they might be planning to release, and what they altogether had, and 7 October 2016, there was no particular reason for Stone to talk to any Russians. The Russians' work, supplying the stolen materials to WikiLeaks, was done; it was WikiLeaks that he needed to talk to, to help coordinate the campaign's amplification of the rumors they were constructing out of this material.

Though other people were talking to Russians at that point (Manafort and Gates, hanging out with their old associate Konstantin Kilimnik, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III in an unexplained encounter, which he lied about in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, with Ambassador Kislyak, J.D. Gordon in his strange interlude with the red-haired gun nut Mariya Butina, Junior and Dan Scavino shortly before the election with a representative of the Russian Facebook equivalent VKontakte, who wanted their help preparing a profile for the American candidate, and then General Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Kushner's pal Avi Berkowitz, with Kislyak again).

Stone's not happening to have been engaged with any Russian individuals in this context really doesn't mean anything at all. If it's a sign of anything, it's of how broad the racket was, how many more or less independent moving parts it incorporated, how much more than mere treason it was.

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