Slack Chat: Stone Wallin’

T: Hey J, did you see this interview with Roger Stone?

Stone might be a serious paranoid – he’s always shifting his eyes everywhere like he’s about to jump at a shadow – but he’s glib, intelligent and very much at ease in front of the microphones.

J: Stone is going to be a tough nut to crack; as you say he’s quick-tongued, and he doesn’t seem the type to fold under pressure.

T: I suspect he has the Trump gene, the ability to believe everything he says. Perfect self-delusion is the ultimate mission for the pathological liar. Stone is a master, and I have no doubt he could pass a lie detector test.

J: That old saying, “he’s so cool, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth,” fits Stone to a tee. He’s better at sounding plausible than anyone else in Trump’s orbit; Trump probably should have considered him for press secretary.

T: He’d be good at it, for sure. Way better than Sanders,who still has some shriveled remains of her soul left in her body, fighting its way out through her facial expressions.

J: I’ll just wait here while you post about 20 Sarah-memes.

T: I’ll put in a slide show.

J: That’ll work.

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T: Give Roger Stone a dorsal fin and he’d look like a Great White shark, wouldn’t he? I suppose that’s what he is; he’s the human embodiment of a prehistoric predator.

J: All cartilage, digestive tract and alligator shoes.

T: Something like that.

J: Stone is painted into a corner now… he pretty much has to tell the truth because his plausible deniability has been blown. If I were him, I’d be looking for the best deal I could get; the truth without immunity might land him in federal prison for the rest of his life.

T: His latest defense is that none of this stuff is illegal. And I can’t really argue with him. Can you?

J: I forget who it was that said that it’s not the deed that gets you into trouble, it’s the coverup.

T: Mae West?

J: I was thinking one of Nixon’s conspirators.

T: Mae West was a Watergate conspirator?

J: No, she was a vestal – I mean vessel – um, never mind. I don’t think that talking to Assange, in and of itself, would have been illegal. But lying about it to investigators is.

Same thing with Cohen; it wouldn’t have been illegal for Trump to go ahead with the hotel in Moscow, but it was extremely bad optics for a presidential candidate, so Trump had Cohen lie about it and say that they killed the deal in January when in fact it was in the summer. Lying about it was the crime.

T: See, that’s the rub. It’s a coverup, but it might not be the coverup of an actual crime. Trump and his people are paranoids who instinctively cover up whenever they get any attention; it’s as automatic as Stone putting on his dorsal fin and torpedoing a stray baby seal. They are like petty thieves on the streets of Brooklyn; they see a cop, they run, even if they aren’t doing anything technically wrong at the time.

But all the arrests in the world won’t matter without a predicate crime to prosecute. Legally, Mueller and congress might be able to prosecute dozens of these people for the coverup. But without an actual crime beneath the cover, the public will never go for it.

Unless Mueller can find something in the Wikileaks/Russia/business connection that was an actual crime, Trump is going to keep stomping on the White House lawn, fingering the Statue of Liberty and wiping his butt with the Constitution. And his base with stand behind him with arms folded.

J: Conspiracy is a crime. If Mueller can prove conspiracy between the Russians, Stone, Assange and Trump, there’ll be an actual, prosecutable crime that Nancy Pelosi can point to and say “Here, this is why we want to impeach him.” And it would be a godsend for Democrats, who could say “Vote for our guy/gal… he/she isn’t in Putin’s pocket.”

T: Sure. But what is the crime? Conspiracy to do something legal isn’t a crime.

J: Conspiracy to obtain something of value (the Presidency) by deception (of the voters) is a crime.

T: We both know Trump has committed hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of impeachable offenses — obstruction, abuse of power, conduct unbecoming the office, refusal to support the constitution, etc. But those are fireable offenses, not prosecutable. To find a prosecutable crime, the investigation has to prove the Russia/Wiki/Trump connection was more than gamesmanship.

By your standard, J, the Stormy Daniels payment should have resulted in Trump leaving the White House in cuffs. So where is the line?

J: The problem with the Stormy payment was that Trump used campaign money to pay her off, not his own. I don’t know what ever came of the campaign-finance charges… Avenatti seems to have more or less dropped off the face of the earth after his domestic violence arrest.

T: Daniels is distancing herself from Avenatti like he tried to fart and accidentally crapped himself, but I never thought the campaign finance violation was a big deal in the first place. It’s technicality stuff, fine print crime. It’s not the sort of thing they can present to the public and ask them to care about. To the public, campaign fraud is like speeding or fudging a little on your taxes. They don’t care. And it’s not like Trump needed the 130 grand.

It was hiding of the affair that I thought was criminal. He had just been outed by the Access Hollywood tape as a womanizing sexual predator. To have the Daniels scandal on top of that must have seemed catastrophic. So he had Cohen pay her off. Did Cohen pay anyone else off?

J: There was another one, Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen paid her off, too.

Trump used the campaign money because he thought he’d never get caught. It’s one more example of his sense of entitlement, his sense that laws and such are for other people, not him.

T: I think Trump lies more out of fear than aggression. Stone weaponizes lying, using lies like hammers, chisels and anvils. Trump uses lying as a deflector shield, protecting his tender romantic self-image. There is an underlying insecurity that permeates everything Trump says, especially in his Twitter storms.

I think that might be why he’s lied and covered up so many things relating to the Mueller investigation.  It’s not that he’s covering up a heinous crime – the more we see, the less likely it is that any heinous crime was committed – but that he’s trying to hide from embarrassing revelations of weakness.

Trump can’t stand being seen as weak, stupid or shallow. Protecting against that is a constant battle, because (of course) he’s all of those things.

J: I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. Trump didn’t know how solidly his base was behind him, so he covered up the embarrassing story.

I think the comparisons between Trump and Nixon that keep coming out are quite apt; neither of them, in the final analysis, did anything that really influenced their respective elections (since the Watergate burglars were caught), but the subsequent coverups ensnared their associates and ended up bringing Nixon down. I don’t know if Trump will end up the same way, but if Cohen has more tapes the historical parallel will be even closer.

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