Special counsel Robert Mueller is "clearly trying to tell us something" with his highly detailed indictment of Roger Stone, and a former federal prosecutor walked through what message his charges have sent so far.
Former U.S. Attorney Mimi Rocah wrote a column for The Daily Beast explaining that Mueller's indictment of Stone, a Republican activist and longtime associate of President Donald Trump, offered unusual detail about a conspiracy but only charges related to a cover-up.
"Mueller did not need to put this much detail in an indictment for obstruction of justice," said Rocah, a former U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. "He could have made this a non-speaking indictment with bare bones charges. He could have made it a speaking indictment that focused only on Stone’s interactions with Persons 1 and 2 and minimal detail about the Trump campaign involvement. But, Mueller didn’t do that. He is clearly trying to tell us something — we just don’t know what exactly, yet.
Stone was not charged as part of a conspiracy with Russia and WikiLeaks to disrupt the 2016 election, but Mueller's indictment details at length his dogged attempts to discover incriminating details from stolen emails.
"Mueller pointedly states in Paragraph 2 of the indictment, right up front, that the Democratic National Committee 'publicly' announced that it had been hacked by Russia," Rocah said. "Did Stone know the emails Wikileaks had and he was eagerly seeking were hacked by a foreign adversary? Of course he did — everyone did. Can Mueller prove that in court beyond a reasonable doubt? We don’t know yet."
Rocah said the indictment also shows that senior Trump campaign officials were closely involved in Stone's efforts to coordinate the release of stolen emails, and she said Mueller might not have revealed more details about the conspiracy for strategic reasons.
"Very often prosecutors will charge a target with a crime that is more easily provable," Rocah said, "execute a search warrant in connection with those charges, and see if they get evidence that can help support more complex, harder-to-prove charges. That is a pretty standard tactic."
The FBI executed at least two search warrants for Stone's property on the day he was arrested, and Rocah wondered whether Mueller laid out the obstruction charges but withheld additional evidence of conspiracy to avoid revealing those details through discovery to his other targets.
"It may be that if Mueller can charge a criminal conspiracy which would include other people, he wants to wait and charge them all together and he is not yet ready to do that," Roach said.