News broke today that former Trump campaign adviser and notorious conman Roger Stone was arrested in Florida by the FBI on charges of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering. Stone is facing a total of seven counts related to Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and was released on $250,000 bail. Reported the Guardian:
Mueller alleged in a long-anticipated indictment that Stone was asked by Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to get inside information about emails that were stolen from Democrats by Russian government hackers and passed to WikiLeaks.
A senior campaign official “was directed” to tell Stone to find out what damaging information WikiLeaks had about Hillary Clinton even after it was reported that the material being published by the group came from Russia, the indictment said.
The allegations were the first to connect Trump’s campaign to the explosive release of the emails stolen by Russian operatives. Their release disrupted Clinton’s campaign and led the Democratic party’s chairwoman to resign.
US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia’s interference was aimed at damaging Clinton’s campaign and helping Trump. Mueller is investigating whether any Trump associates coordinated with the Russian effort.
Stone’s arrest makes it clear that Mueller strongly believes Trump associates coordinated with the Russian effort to destroy Hillary Clinton. The White House has, of course, denied Stone’s arrest has anything to do with Trump. “This has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on CNN. “This is something that has to do solely with that individual.” Unfortunately for Trump, this argument cannot be taken seriously anymore, particularly given the charges against Stone could reveal criminal campaign law violations.
What we know about collusion
With the arrest of Stone, the evidence for Trump’s collusion with Russia is also now so overwhelming that if action isn’t taken to impeach the president, American democracy and the rule of law may be at risk of collapsing.
We know that Donald Trump was actively seeking a big real estate deal in Russia during the 2016 election. We know that he publicly asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email. We know that Paul Manafort shared polling data with a business partner who had ties to Russian intelligence. We know that Trump ran on a blatantly pro-Russian campaign platform, and has continued to craft US foreign policy to align almost perfectly with Moscow’s. We know he has disavowed his own intelligence agencies and take Putin’s word that they did not hack the US election. We know that he fired then FBI director James Comey for investigating him on collusion charges. As Vox notes, we also know that “there were extensive communications between people in Trump’s orbit and Russian government figures or others who had, or purported to have, close ties to the Putin regime.”
A BBC report states that, “At least 12 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the campaign or transition, according to an analysis of public records by CNN, with at least 19 face-to-face interactions with Russians or Kremlin-linked figures and at least 51 individual communications.”
“Trump aides known to have had contact with Russians include the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, his son Donald Trump Jr, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
If multiple Trump associates and ‘senior Trump campaign officials’ were working with and had extensive contact with a foreign government to undermine their candidate’s opponent, at some point we have to draw the blindingly obvious conclusion that Trump colluded with Russia.
What collusion really means
If Trump colluded with Russia, more questions need to be asked. For example: why Russia in the first place? Given Trump’s business interests there, it would make sense to follow the money. We can’t, because Trump has not released his tax returns. But given the public information available, there are many plausible theories, most of them revolving around huge amounts of Russian money in his businesses. As The Moscow Project states, “in the context of a president under several investigations for his connections to the Kremlin, Russia’s outsize role in Trump’s reemergence from financial tribulations that nearly destroyed his real estate empire merit additional attention. What emerges is the story of a man indebted to Russia through the oligarchs that President Vladimir Putin helped create and now controls.”
In other words, Trump doesn’t just owe Russian oligarchs money, he is potentially owned by them and Vladimir Putin completely. We also know there is a strong possibility the Russians have potentially embarrassing tapes of Trump, and given the Kremlin’s extensive history of using ‘kompromat’ to gain leverage over politicians and businessmen, this would not be particularly surprising.
If this is the case, then Americans have in effect, a foreign agent leading their government. This is a terrifying reality to comprehend, and one so serious it requires urgent action by other branches of government to remove him.
Roger Stone, the last straw
The arrest of Roger Stone has been expected for some time now, and in truth, is just another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that has already been solved. The evidence for collusion is overwhelming, and Stone’s arrest highlights how extensive the collusion was.
Given we do not know when Robert Mueller’s investigation is going to end, it is incumbent upon Congress to do its job and protect the country from what is now a severe national security threat. As David Frum writes, “The truth about these things is presumably known to Mueller and his team. To the extent that this truth is prosecutable, Americans will eventually learn more of it through further indictments and—if the next attorney general allows it to be released—a future Mueller report. Perhaps that will happen this year, or maybe next.”
“But now—now!—the country is in danger. Now—now!—it is headed by a president whose fundamental loyalty to the United States cannot intelligently be trusted,” continues Frum. “Waiting for Mueller has always been a slow option. That slowness more and more appears a danger that the country cannot safely risk.”
Should Congress not act, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent for future Presidents. Regardless of whether impeachment proceedings actually force Trump from office, it is important for the US government to operate as it was originally intended to. Because this is exactly what the system was designed for: to keep the executive branch in check and ensure there are no abuses of power.
Trump has not only grotesquely abused his power, he is potentially working on behalf of a foreign power to the detriment of his own country. If the system is not capable of getting rid of an internal threat this severe, then it may well be broken beyond repair.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.