• Ryan O'Connell

Donald Trump Plays The Godfather, Again

July 12, 2020

Roger Stone did “the right thing”, and his Godfather took care of him.

President Donald Trump made it clear this week that he is above the law, no matter what the Supreme Court thinks, and so are his friends and cronies. Like any respectable Mafioso, this Don rewards his loyal henchmen if they keep the code of silence: you don’t rat on me, I’ll protect you.

Trump has now, in effect, reversed two convictions of members of his inner circle. In each case, Trump has essentially exonerated them of lying to government officials. In each case, Trump has been working to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential campaign, which led to the two convictions.

Dismissing Flynn’s Conviction For Lying

In the first instance, Trump’s consigliere Bill Barr moved to drop the charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, for lying to FBI agents about his conversation with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

This was an unprecedented action by an Attorney General, and the lead prosecutor withdrew from the case in protest. No Department of Justice attorneys who had been involved with the case agreed with Barr’s step. Barr’s intervention followed an extensive public relations campaign the President had conducted for Flynn via Twitter.

Flynn had discussed with Kislyak the Obama Administration’s sanctions that aimed to punish Russian officials for interfering in the 2016 election, during a phone call on Dec. 29, 2016...the same day the sanctions were announced. Flynn had reassured the ambassador that the incoming Trump team would reconsider those sanctions when it assumed office.

FBI agents learned about the phone call and interviewed Flynn, who misled them about his conversation. Subsequently, Robert Mueller indicted Flynn, who entered into a plea bargain admitting that he had lied.

A Pattern of Interference In the Stone Case

Trump has not pardoned Stone or otherwise sought to remove the conviction—yet. Instead, Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month sentence shortly before his departure for prison. The President had tweeted frequently on behalf of Stone, attacking the prosecution.

Barr also intervened in Stone’s case. The prosecutors recommended a sentence of 7-9 years, but Barr overruled, them, asking for a lighter one. Barr took this step the day after Trump criticized the prosecutors’ sentencing request, tweeting, “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Barr’s step provoked protests from the prosecutors. All four resigned from the case, and one even left the Department of Justice.

In justifying the commutation, Trump said that Roger Stone had been treated “very unfairly”. In fact, Stone displayed remarkably bad behavior, both during the Congressional hearings and his criminal trial. He treated the Congressional investigators and the trial judge with extraordinary contempt.

Roger Stone photo: Wikimedia Commons

Stone was convicted of seven felonies: obstructing an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and tampering with a witness. The court found that Stone lied repeatedly to investigators on the Senate Intelligence Committee about his dealings with Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who published embarrassing emails relating to Hillary Clinton, as well as Stone’s interactions with Russian officials acting as Internet trolls.

Randy Credico, a radio and TV personality, had told Stone that Assange “had kryptonite on Clinton.” Prosecutors called Credico as a witness in Stone’s trial. Stone tried to intimidate Credico so that he would not testify. In other words, Stone tampered with a witness.

Stone emailed Credico several times, using Mafia-type language:

“You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds."

"I am so ready. Let's get it on. Prepare to die (expletive deleted).”

Stone Threatens A Judge

During his trial, Stone posted on Instagram a picture of the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, with what seemed to be rifle scope crosshairs next to her face. Stone also talked to the press about the trial, which is improper. Judge Jackson imposed a gag order on Stone after his Instagram post. The Justice Department prosecutors asked for a heavy sentence for Stone precisely because of his outrageous behavior during the trial, including his implicit threat to the judge. It is now clear why Stone was so defiant and cavalier during the Congressional hearings and his trial. The fix was in; the Boss would take care of him.

A Direct Attack on Law and Democracy

Trump’s interventions in the Flynn and Stone cases (and Barr’s meddling) represent a direct attack on the rule of law and on democratic institutions. Flynn and Stone should be subject to the same standards and punishments as ordinary Americans are.

And if citizens can lie with impunity to officials, the machinery of government will break down. If government officials, whether they are FBI agents, members of Congress, or trial judges, cannot compel citizens to tell the truth, a democratic government cannot function.

Dictatorships are built on lies and propaganda, and the people suffer. Democracies must be built on facts and information, or they cannot operate effectively to serve their citizens.

Donald Trump doesn’t care about facts or truth, of course. But then, he doesn’t care about democracy, either. If you do, your decision in November is crystal clear.

The Wall Street Democrat

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