There were two ways Roger Stone’s morning arrest could have played out.
The first scenario is the one Roger rehearsed in his mind a hundred times; his attorney would have been notified well in advance, giving America’s number one parody cartoon supervillain time to assemble some typically foppish confection: perhaps a purple morning coat, spats, hand-tooled lemur-skin calf boots, a jaunty top hat, a monocle, and an exotic cravat tied in a knot typically used only in vigorous German fesselspiele games. He would stride toward the waiting federales with a louche swagger, his bejeweled walking stick in hand. He would smile for the assembled cameras and toss off some bon mot that communicated both searing contempt and breezy insouciance.
Instead, a second, real-world scenario obtained. A frowzy, shocked Roger Stone woke to the sound of “FBI, WARRANT! OPEN THE DOOR!” in the predawn hours. The FBI may not be getting paid, but that didn’t stop them from rolling hard on Stone’s lair, arresting him, and booking him into the Broward County jail. Stern but polite FBI agents arrested Stone on seven counts of lying to Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Two things must have rankled Stone most. First, a CNN stringer was on the scene to a provide video of the raid. Second, Stone appeared in court handcuffed and shackled clad not in one of his usual dandy-lad getups, but rather in a plain blue Polo shirt. Just wait until Roger gets issued prison Crocs and a polyester-blend jumpsuit that doesn’t match his spray tan.
Stone is charged with obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering. Sorry, Trump fans; one of your heroes is about to either die in prison or flip on your cult leader. These charges, narrowly and surgically crafted, are enough that even a fairly slow jury would send Roger up the river long enough that a 66-year old man faces slim odds of coming out alive. The indictments draw yet another line of communication between Trump’s campaign (and likely Trump personally) and the efforts of Russia to elect Donald Trump, in this case via Stone’s relationship with GRU affiliate Wikileaks. The indictment is full of dumb, damning details.
All of Trump world seems to forget that Mueller has all the receipts, phone records, emails, text messages, metadata, and financial records. Stone lied to the Special Counsel because he trusted WhatsApp, which is a grandpa mistake of the first order. Stone lied in Congress because he believed that the House Republicans would sit on his transcript and he would never be held to account. Those lies met with the hard reality that elections have consequences. Donald Trump incinerated 40 GOP House seats, and so the Democratic majority shared the transcript the GOP had suppressed with Mueller. It wasn’t partisan; they had evidence of Stone committing multiple crimes in the form of lying to Congress.
When your primary line of defense is that “process crimes are not crimes,” you’re in pretty deep legal water, so of course, that’s where the Trump team went at once. The first line of defense from Trump world is the usual “No collusion! Witchhunt!” piffle to which we’ve all become inured. If this is a witch-hunt, Robert Mueller found a couple of our Broward County Voldemort’s horcruxes today.
It was a bad day to be an official or quasi-official spokesperson for Trump. Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani did the usual Jay and Rudy show, to little effect. Sarah Sanders, balefully squinting at the camera, gamely muttered, “This has nothing to do with the President.” Oh, Sarah. That’s like saying sucking down a brace of Filet O’Fish sandwiches thrice daily has nothing to do with Trump’s enormous booty. This has everything to do with Trump, and his legal team’s panic-vomiting tells you how serious it is.
Another good barometer of how scared Trump’s media allies feel on any given day is how much they try to litigate the composition of Mueller’s staff or legal tactics as opposed to the underlying facts. The arrest at Stone’s love shack has become today’s hissy-fit shit-show screaming point by Trump and Stone fanboys like Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, who ran a headline that captures the Trump-right drama-queen take on the arrest perfectly: “FBI Raid Would Make Gestapo Proud.” Did your eyes just roll? Because my eyes just rolled. The door-knock and the FBI’s handling of Stone was hardly a kinetic entry for a violent felon.
Stone acolyte Jacob Engels, Pizzagate hoaxer Jack Posobiec, greased-ham cosplayer Dan Bongino, Bongino’s handmaiden John Cardillo, and the usual cast of thousands raced to their fainting couches, declaring that the Deep State Gestapo was upon us. Trump Twitter ragebots always ready to scream “Lock her up” have suddenly discovered compassion and a love of due process and delicate treatment for those in the legal system. Several thousand kids in cages down on the border are muttering, “"¿Qué pinga?"
Mueller never sleeps, his targets aren’t getting exonerated no matter how many times the Trump media screams “But her emails!” or “No collusion!” This is one more set of indictments and moves in a mosaic of dread for Trump. It never gets better, Russia always draws closer, and the connections always paint of picture of more malfeasance and connection to Putin’s operation. The “process crimes” are just gravy. Delicious, delicious gravy.
It defies reason that Trump’s sudden, constant mentions of Wikileaks on the campaign trail in 2016 didn’t come from direct conversations with Stone. Trump would have loved the skullduggery aspects of it, the idea that an electoral cheat code would help him bring down Hillary Clinton.
The irony of today is that the weird, bullshit arc of Stone’s long investment in Trump is over today. What must truly sting for Stone is the inevitable process of Trump-world’s denials and distancing; after investing 40 years of his life in Trump, Stone was screwed out of the massive financial payday he expected from the campaign, then frozen out of the massive lobbying windfall that lesser lights like Corey Lewandowski have enjoyed. If he holds the line, he’s of no use to Trump and will be forgotten and dismissed. If (and more likely when) he breaks, he’ll be a traitor, a coffee boy, a ghost in the Trump machine.
Stone was an architect of Trump’s world view, his politics, and his ideological positions, such as they are. Roger was there at Trump’s side when Orange Bull Connor declared that the Central Park Five were guilty and deserved to be executed. He was at Trump’s side as one of the architects of Birtherism. His toxic brand of dumb ratfuckery for the sake of ratfuckery is the Trump administration writ large.
Roger survived for decades on his wits, blustering one campaign, interest group, scam PAC, or donor after another on his “I elected Nixon, Reagan, and Bush” line of white-hot horseshit. As I wrote in my book Everything Trump Touches Dies, Stone’s outsize image and reputation were his primary product, not elections or campaign work. As the famous (and sometimes infamous) Ray Harding, then chairman of New York’s Liberal Party, once told me in the late '90s, “The only two people who believe Roger Stone’s bullshit are Roger Stone and that fucking moron Trump.”
Stone’s post-arraignment press conference was the last gasp of a dying animal. He may posture and strut, playing the showman role to the hilt, but he’s in the barrel now, and unless he wants to die in prison and be buried in a potters’ field wearing a tattered, scratchy polyester blend orange prison jumpsuit, he’ll swallow his considerable pride and cooperate.
As Stone spoke to the press today, the crowd chanted, “Lock him up!” with more than a little glee. Roger, seeming unaware that karma is a cruel, magnificent bitch, walked away from the press conference unable to understand that his time in the barrel is here, and his future is not as a bon vivant and political showman but as just another victim of the Trump curse.