Special counsel Robert Mueller did something unusual today. For the first time, he requested an official transcript of an interview of a witness who testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee, according to an article in The Washington Post.
That the witness in question was former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone speaks volumes about the progress Mueller is making in his investigation of the Republican specialist in underhanded political skullduggery and of Stone’s involvement in the campaign’s contacts with Russian hackers and Wikileaks to obtain the release of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee.
The timing of the Special Counsel’s request is interesting. With the incoming Chair of the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), having already promised to release to Mueller all of the transcripts of testimony in front of the committee, some see the request as a test of Rep, Devin Nunes (R-CA), the current Republican head of the panel.
Nunes has been a fervent defender of President Trump who has done everything in his power to obfuscate the investigation into Russsian collusion, including preventing transcripts of closed-door testimony from being made public or even being disseminated beyond the committee itself, outside of selective leaks that were designed to bolster Trump.
Mueller’s request for the transcript likely indicates that he is ready to turn his full investigatory powers on the flamboyant political operative. With a copy of Stone’s congressional testimony in his hands, Mueller can compare what Stone revealed to the committee under oath and compare it to the reams of evidence that his team has collected and can then determine whether the Trump confidant perjured himself on the stand.
If Stone did indeed lie to Congress, it gives Mueller significant leverage over him since the Special Counsel can choose to indict Stone for a felony that will likely send him to prison for the rest of his life or use the threat of prosecution to convince Stone to flip and cooperate with the investigation, forcing Stone to provide names, dates, and details of any un-indicted co-conspirators’ involvement in the collusion with the Russian government and Wikileaks.
An indictment for lying to a government entity is a prosecutorial tactic that Mueller has used to successfully turn previous subjects of his inquiry, like Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen, into fruitful sources of hidden secrets that have helped the Special Counsel indict at least 33 people and 3 corporations to date.
Roger Stone responded to the news with his typical bravado.
“I don’t think any reasonable attorney who looks at it would conclude that I committed perjury, which requires intent and materiality,” Stone said.
Despite Stone’s denials, legal experts believe that Mueller’s request for the official transcript of Stone’s closed-door interview — an unofficial copy of which the Special Counsel has reportedly already had in his possession for weeks — indicates that he’s completed the investigation into Stone and is ready to indict him for perjury.
“That suggests prosecutors are getting ready to bring a charge,” said former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner. “Prosecutors can’t bring a charge without an original certified copy of the transcript that shows the witness lied.”
Given that Stone has switched his story multiple times about how he had advance knowledge of Wikileaks’ release of hacked Democratic emails, his credibility remains doubtful. Once the House Intelligence Committee votes to allow Mueller access to the official transcript, everything will become clearer shortly.
The question on the table right now is whether Devin Nunes and his Republican cronies will continue to block the release of the transcript in the two weeks that he remains the committee’s chairman or whether he will bow to the inevitable, considering that Shiff and the new Democratic majority take the reins in just a few weeks.
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Original reporting by Carol D. Leonnig. Ellen Nakashima Rosalind S. Helderman, Manuel Roig-Franzia at The Washington Post