This week Roger Stone, an advisor to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, appeared before a federal judge and pled not guilty to seven counts of among other things, lying to Congress and the FBI about communications with individuals interested in the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee. Stone is facing an almost certain conviction due to his propensity for bragging about his misdeeds and his misunderstanding of technology.
A review of the timeline provides the most telling indictment of Stone. In October of 2016, Wikileaks released thousands of stolen emails belonging to John Podesta (Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign chair), known in hacking parlance as a “dump”. Six weeks before the dump by Wikileaks, a tweet by Stone, "Trust me, it will soon be the Podesta's time in the barrel" auspiciously forecast the subject matter of the emails. Stone, perhaps sensing that his indiscreet tweet may have implicated him as a participant in the crime of hacking the DNC computers, contacted a Republican operative, Jerome Corsi, and asked for his help in providing an "alternative explanation" for his tweet. Corsi then wrote a memo for Stone detailing the lobbying activities of John Podesta. In the following months, both Stone and Corsi said the memo was the inspiration for Stone's tweet even though it was written weeks after the tweet.
There is a reason Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder is holed up in an Equadorian embassy. Hacking emails of the Democratic Committee, the Pentagon and various other computer servers is a crime. Participating in crime, encouraging, aiding and abetting a crime makes you guilty as well, however, Stone is not charged with hacking or participating in the crime, only lying to Congress about it.
Lying to a Congressional Committee is a violation of 18 USC Sections 1505 and 2 (Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies and committees), which is punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years. In response to a direct inquiry by the Congressional Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Stone testified he had not communicated via electronic means with anyone about the dump of emails.
In this day and age, one would have to be living under a rock not to recognize that anything can be subpoenaed by the Office of the Special Counsel. Stone thought he was smarter than that and insisted he communicate with his intermediaries through "WhatsApp", an encrypted messaging service that does not store the content of the messages. Whatsapp, considered an almost foolproof messaging service encrypts messages before sending them, then unencrypts the message upon receipt. Because the application does not store the message there is no record to be subpoenaed. The dirty little secret about Whatsapp - the content of the message can be automatically backed up on “the cloud” by either the sender or the receiver. Likely that either Stone unwittingly downloaded the message on his cloud server or that the recipient did.
It has been said that in the defense of a high profile client, there are two courts: the court where justice is dispensed and the court of public opinion. Interestingly, Stone seems to have a fondness for Richard Nixon, and is known in as the “dirty trickster” in political circles. Stone used the pseudonym “Richard Nixon” to sign off on one of the encrypted messages about the dump, and then flashed the victory sign “a la Nixon” upon his arrest last week in Florida. Not exactly the most endearing historic reference, but fortunately for Stone, President Trump admires those who fall on their sword for the cause. Stone's reliance on a presidential pardon may be his best avenue for avoiding incarceration.
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