From the minute President Trump handed down his commutation of Roger Stone's sentence Friday just days before the longtime Trump ally was set to go to prison, it was only a matter of time before the now-retired Robert Mueller, the infamously reticent former special prosecutor, weighed in to assure the world that Trump is once again 'abusing' the powers of his office, and thereby threatening the democratic controls and values at the very core of our system. Prosecutors who worked on Mueller's team have been popping up in the press more frequently. One even testified to Congress about DoJ interference and alleged political pressure in the Stone case.
The former FBI chief broke his silence last night, when the Washington Post published a Mueller-penned op-ed hitting all the expected notes. Reminding the public - well, more like implying - that Stone knows all the secrets of the Russia-Wikileaks-Trump connection. The DNC hack, Hillary's missing emails, all those twitter bots - all of these victories surely helped sway voters in Trump's favor, Mueller argues.
And without Russia's tacit support, Mueller argues, they would never have happened. But was Stone really so integral to these operations? His reputation as a fabricator and an exaggerator were well covered during the case.
We now have a detailed picture of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate. We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel — Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities. The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. It also established that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.
Uncovering and tracing Russian outreach and interference activities was a complex task. The investigation to understand these activities took two years and substantial effort. Based on our work, eight individuals pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial, and more than two dozen Russian individuals and entities, including senior Russian intelligence officers, were charged with federal crimes.
Congress also investigated and sought information from Stone. A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.
Stone was found guilty by a jury back in November of all seven charges that he faced. He was charged with lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction. At the time, the press reported that Stone could face up to 50 years in prison. He was eventually sentenced to between 3 and four years after being convicted on all 7 counts he faced, including the witness tampering charge, which carried a maximum penalty of 20 years, while the maximum for each of the other six charges is five years. Stones convictions will stand, and he will remain a felon.
Mueller also insisted he made every decision based "solely on the facts", though we wonder how tipping off CNN to the military-style raid that brought Stone into federal custody relates to Mueller's "by the book" credo.
Russian efforts to interfere in our political system, and the essential question of whether those efforts involved the Trump campaign, required investigation. In that investigation, it was critical for us (and, before us, the FBI) to obtain full and accurate information. Likewise, it was critical for Congress to obtain accurate information from its witnesses. When a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable. It may ultimately impede those efforts.
We made every decision in Stone’s case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false.
Unsurprisingly, Mueller's latest communique (expect the WaPo op-ed, like the Mueller report before it, to be transformed into its own book - then who knows? Maybe a maybe motion picture based on the limited communications of Robert Swan Mueller III?) triggered a wave of hand-wringing in Washington, including among some Republicans, who have groused about Trump's decision to intercede on behalf of his one-time advisor (and, reportedly, friend). Despite being a firm Trump backer and friend, Graham has made noises about joining with Democrats and granting permission to bring Mueller in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee (nearly a year ago, Mueller participated in a marathon series of hearings before the House Intelligence Committee and House Judiciary).
Most Republicans have generally opposed another round of Mueller testimony, But Graham is facing a competitive election bid, and grandstanding on this topic allows him to both feign bipartisan cooperation while upping the pressure for a Congressional investigation into the origins of the 'Witch Hunt' which would presumably target Mueller, Comey and the rest of the FBI/DoJ leadership who were caught up in it.
Graham delivered the statement in a series of tweets.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have previously requested Mr. Mueller appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about his investigation.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 12, 2020
That request will be granted.
Of course, most observers agree that they would be shocked if Mueller accepted. Though, perhaps with Mueller's input, Graham will finally be able to cobble together those 'witch hunt' subpoenas he's been promising.'
Or maybe not - but either way, we suspect the issue will stay 'open' until at least Nov. 4.