Earlier this week, Republican “dirty tricks” operative Roger Stone attempted to chum the waters around Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump, but critics say the plan is transparently political and ultimately doomed to fail.
Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy said that Stone’s attempt to leverage the so-called Uranium One scandal into a plot to discredit and remove Mueller from the investigation is a non-starter.
Stone — a longtime ally and confidant of Trump — ran to conservative website The Daily Caller on Monday after Mueller announced the indictments of former Trump 2016 chairman Paul Manafort and his aide Richard Gates and revealed that former campaign aide George Papadopoulos had entered a guilty plea and is cooperating with the probe.
“Mueller can’t be a special prosecutor when he himself is under investigation,” Stone told The Daily Caller.
He was referring to the ginned-up Uranium One scandal — a phony right-wing smear of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband former President Bill Clinton — and insisting that Mueller didn’t do proper diligence on a business deal between Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom and Canadian mining firm Uranium One.
But, Tracy noted, legal experts say Stone’s strategy is flawed and may already be backfiring on him and the other Republicans trying to kneecap the Mueller investigation and calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the former FBI director.
“You need a special counsel in situations where high-ranking people in the current White House are implicated in a criminal investigation, including potentially the president,” said former ethics czar to the Pres. George W. Bush Richard Painter. “That is why we appointed a special counsel in the Russia investigation and indeed we didn’t end up getting one until President Trump fired the director of the F.B.I.”
If the Trump administration genuinely wanted to investigate the Uranium One deal, a special prosecutor wouldn’t be necessary, said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
“I don’t understand why you would need a special counsel when no one is really concerned that Jeff Sessions and anyone else appointed by Trump is going to be anything other than diligent,” Mariotti explained.
According to attorney Ira Matetsky, there’s no crime here, just more politics.
“The fact that someone might think that it was a mistake to approve the Uranium deal or that it was a bad deal or that the deal was not going to ‘Make America Great Again’ is not evidence of a crime. That is a policy disagreement,” said Matetsky to Vanity Fair. “There would need to be a credible reason to believe . . . that a crime was committed and that a crime was committed by someone who the D.O.J. was prosecuting.”
Furthermore, Matetsky said, Stone has already overplayed his hand by revealing that his motivations aren’t actually in the interest of justice, but in the form of political payback.
“If you want to make a suggestion that something is going to make a legal conflict of interest, the last thing you want to do is go out and announce that you are making the suggestion for blatantly political reasons,” Matetsky explained. “He has reduced the chances that this could go anywhere by almost advertising that it will have a blatantly result-oriented motive.”