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Special Counsel Indicts Trump Associate Roger Stone

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program today by talking about the latest indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller's office. Yesterday, after an early morning raid by the FBI, Mueller charged longtime Trump associate Roger Stone with obstruction of justice, making false statements to Congress and witness tampering. A few hours after his arrest, Stone said he intends to plead not guilty. And he said...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER STONE: The charges today relate in no way to Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration or any other illegal act in connection with the 2016 campaign.

MARTIN: That was outside of the courthouse, as you might imagine. In a few minutes, we're going to tell you more about Roger Stone and where he fits into the political scene. But first, we want to focus on what exactly this indictment means. So once again, we've called former federal prosecutor Seth Waxman.

Welcome back, Mr. Waxman. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

SETH WAXMAN: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So the special counsel charged Roger Stone with lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, but he didn't charge him with the underlying crime of conspiracy. I wanted to ask, what's your take on that? Because the indictment seems to contain plenty of evidence pointing to coordination between Stone and WikiLeaks.

WAXMAN: Yeah. He clearly seems to - could have charged conspiracy. On its face, it's an obstruction, witness tampering, indictment. But from my view, this is really just another piece in the puzzle. And if you assume the underlying investigation is a check into the conspiracy, a potential conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election, this could be a - what we would call in the legal world an overt act in furtherance of that conspiracy.

In other words, if the Russians were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for, say, a promise to reduce or eliminate sanctions on the Russians, then how that dirt got out into the public arena would be a part of that conspiracy, a overt act in furtherance of that conspiracy. So it seems that if Mueller ultimately brings a wider conspiracy case, this is one of the legs or prongs of that conspiracy that was part and parcel of the wider conspiracy. But it's not been charged as such at this time, obviously.

MARTIN: But can I just focus a little bit more on this? Would it be a crime for Roger Stone to have coordinated with WikiLeaks? I mean, WikiLeaks isn't Russia, and it's Russia that the special counsel has charged with hacking the Democratic email accounts and so forth.

WAXMAN: Well, it could be. So, for example, this idea of a quid pro quo - of the Russians offering dirt on Hillary in exchange for a promise to reduce or eliminate sanctions on Russians - that would be a crime, a bribery scheme, for example. If Roger Stone knew about that scheme and intentionally acted in a way to facilitate that scheme by causing the Russians to work with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign to work with WikiLeaks to get that dirt out into the public arena, and he did that knowingly and intentionally, he could be a part of that wider conspiracy.

On the other hand, if all he did - he had no idea about that underlying criminal conduct and was simply doing a favor, for example, for the Trump campaign, then no, he might not be. So it really goes to what his knowledge was and intent, like in many crimes.

MARTIN: The indictment contains a paragraph alleging that an unnamed senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about additional WikiLeaks releases of stolen emails, and it doesn't say by whom. I was wondering what this suggests to you. I mean, does it suggest that the special counsel is closing in on someone very close to the president, somebody very senior?

WAXMAN: Yeah, it sure seems that way, right? I mean, that's the phrase or paragraph in the indictment that raises the most questions and is kind of the most interesting to look at. And so it's one senior campaign official being directed by an even higher senior campaign official. And what we know about the campaign, there weren't - there just weren't that many people at the top of the ladder there.

So, you know, it's speculation as to - now as to who that is. But I think what we can clearly say is we've moved out of the world of speculation and into the world of clear evidence - that's - you know, the highest members of the Trump campaign were involved in this effort to get the dirt out through WikiLeaks.

MARTIN: So finally, before we let you go, do you have any sense, based on what we've seen so far, where the special counsel is headed from here?

STONE: Yeah. I mean, you know, this is a perfectly set up conspiracy investigation where you start low and work your way up the ladder to the highest rungs of that ladder. And we're clearly getting there, with Paul Manafort having been addressed, now Roger Stone having been addressed. It's my belief that the next step in which - maybe the final step is to look at Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, whether that's indictments for lying to Congress or dropping the wider conspiracy indictment and submitting a report to Congress.

So I think we're - you know, we're clearly heading towards the end, whether that means an additional month or two or three to six months. You know, it's just difficult to say from the outside, but we're clearly reaching the very top. And I think Bob Mueller's going to take a shot at flipping Roger Stone. You know, he'll issue indictments if he has a basis to against Jared Kushner and Don Jr.

And I think the only person left then is the president himself, and I'm of the opinion that he won't indict a sitting president. I'm also of the opinion that that's not a proper thing to do. I know there's very well-reasoned positions on the other side. But I think we are heading down the glide path to the end of this investigation in the terms of several months hopefully at most.

MARTIN: That was Seth Waxman, former federal prosecutor. He's currently a partner at the law firm of Dickinson Wright.

Mr. Waxman, thanks so much for talking to us once again.

WAXMAN: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.