In one respect, focusing on Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone as a key Russia scandal player and therefore of great interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller is almost too easy.
Stone, not unlike Donald Trump, may have never done an honest day's work in his life. His dirty paws are all over the scandal and he is the likely target of a post-midterm election indictment. But the reason Stone is a person of interest, as they say in the prosecutorial trade, is not what it may seem.
The oft-reported reason Mueller is said to be thisclose to indicting Stone, as breathlessly reported in innumerable media accounts during the pre-November 6 lull, is that he knew in advance of WikiLeaks' intention to leak hacked Democratic emails in June 2016 as the presidential campaign revved up because he had a back channel to Julian Assange and was in touch with Guccifer 2.0, a group of Russian hackers.
But none of these things are crimes in and of themselves, so what have Mueller's prosectors being doing as they have sniffed up Stone's butt for the past year and interviewed nearly a dozen of his associates? Why is the man who memorably said of John Podesta at the height of the 2016 campaign that his "time in the barrel" was at hand with an imminent WikiLeaks release of damaging Russian-hacked emails now be facing the music?
The inestimable Marcy Wheeler lays out the reasons in a deep-diving post at emptywheel, which is simplified and amplified on here:
What matters is from whom Stone learned of the email releases.
The smart money says that his source -- or more likely sources because there may have been several people -- was a man who identifies himself as Henry Greenberg but Stone claims (and probably correctly) is Russian national Gennadiy Vasilievich Vostretsov, who returned to Russia in 2000 but has made trips back to the U.S., sometimes to work as an FBI informant.
Stone business partner Michael Caputo, who was a Trump campaign communications adviser, set up a meeting between Stone and Greenberg/Vostretsov in late May 2016 at a restaurant in the Russian expatriate haven of Sunny Isles, Florida where Greenberg/Vostretsov reportedly offered the campaign damaging information about Hillary Clinton for $2 million.
"You don’t understand Donald Trump. He doesn't pay for anything," Stone claims he replied, although not in testimony to the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, where both he and Caputo neglected to mention the meeting under oath, explaining later that they had suffered a sort of group amnesia.
Equally unbelievable is the claim that the FBI was setting up the campaign as part of the deep-state plot to undermine Trump that is the stuff of Trumpian fantasies. This is because the Caputo-arranged Stone-Greenberg/Vostretsov meeting took place before the FBI learned that Russia was targeting Clinton and other Democrats.
While the FBI didn't have that information until June 12 or so, Trump campaign coffee boy George Papadopoulos was told on April 26 by the now disappeared and presumed dead Joseph Mifsud that the Russians had "dirt" on Clinton and "thousands" of her emails and certainly shared that information.
Whether Caputo and Stone knew that is unclear, but in the range of possible to probable.
More importantly, if the participants of the infamous June 9 Trump Tower meeting -- Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort -- knew, and it is a foregone conclusion that they did, then the meeting becomes an overt act in a conspiracy and Stone's boasting about the WikiLeaks release adds to evidence that he was part of that conspiracy.Stone is as practiced a liar as Trump, so as foregone conclusions go, Mueller-filed perjury charges seem inevitable. As do campaign finance law violations stemming from Stone's dark money group, Stop the Steal (doncha love the name?), which worked to intimidate Ted Cruz supporters during the primaries and then to suppress Democratic voter turnout in the fall.
Meanwhile, Stone swears he would never turn on the man he has advised for nearly four decades.
"The special counsel pokes into every aspect of my social, family, personal, business, and political life, seeking something -- anything -- he can use to pressure me, to silence me, and to try to induce me to testify against my friend Donald Trump," he told the WaPo. "This I will not do."
Another fella by the name of Manafort once said the same thing. But now it's likely that he'll testify against Stone.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.