Appearing on CNN shortly after the arrest and indictment of Trump adviser Roger Stone, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was quick to try and claim, again, that it had “nothing to do with” Trump and “wasn’t about” collusion. During the rest of the interview, Sanders was insistent on looking only at the charges against Stone—perjury, obstruction, and witness tampering—and noting that none of them mentioned Trump.
But that doesn’t mean that Donald Trump or conspiracy are not in the Stone indictment. It’s just that both may be a little bit disguised. In the background information on Stone’s actions, there is this brief description of an incident connecting the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.
The description here is not of Stone trying to interest the campaign in information and being waved off. It’s the opposite. This is the campaign approaching Stone, seeking out details on what information was available from WikiLeaks that they could use to harm Hillary Clinton.
But of particular interest in this passage is a single word: directed. That word, found in “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone,” doesn’t just show that the outreach was coming from the side of the Trump campaign, but that the person who reached out to Stone did so at the direction of someone higher up.
Who was high enough to direct a “senior campaign official?” There’s a good reason to believe that the number of people with that authority was exactly one.
At Emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler has given her guess that the “senior campaign official” was Rick Gates. She admits that this is just a guess, but provides some pretty good reasoning as to why it’s a good guess.
Except, there’s other evidence that it wasn’t Gates.
That other evidence comes from looking at other indictments. Going back across indictments of others connected with the Trump campaign produces this list of officials whose names are now known with a fair degree of certainty.
|Name||Description in court document|
|Sam Clovis||Campaign Supervisor|
|Corey Lewandowski||High-ranking Campaign Official|
|Paul Manafort||High-ranking Campaign Official|
|Rick Gates||Campaign Official|
|Walid Phares||Foreign Policy Adviser|
If the person in the Stone document was Gates, it would seem to represent an increase in the rating of his position compared to other indictments. It might be argued that the terms “senior campaign official” and “high-ranking campaign official” were equivalent, except that a later section of the Stone indictment again uses the term “high-ranking campaign official.”
Background section 16. b.
Also on or about October 3, 2016, STONE received an email from a reporter who had connections to a high-ranking Trump Campaign official that asked, “[the head Case 1:19-cr-00018-ABJ Document 1 Filed 01/24/19 Page 8 of 249of Organization 1] – what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” STONE responded in part,“It is. I’d tell [the high-ranking Trump Campaign official] but he doesn’t call me back.
If the high-ranking campaign official here is at the same level as in previous documents, then it seems unlikely that either of them is Rick Gates. It would also seem unlikely that this second official was Paul Manafort—though it it were Stone’s longtime partner, then it might explain his frustration at not getting a return call.
If “senior campaign official” is actually a new level above high-ranking campaign official, it would seem to be down to three possible people: Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and possibly Paul Manafort. Manafort is included in this list because by the time of the actions related to Stone, his position in the campaign had been elevated. Though … if it was just Manafort, it’s less satisfying than either of the other options.
But who would have been capable of directing any of these officials to get in touch with Stone and feel him out about the contents of WikiLeaks’ stolen material? There doesn’t seem to be any name available except that of Donald Trump.