No one paying attention was surprised when Special Counsel Robert Mueller had Roger Stone arrested on Friday morning. It was such an obvious inevitability, even Stone has been publicly saying that he knew it was coming. But there was one big surprise aspect of Stone’s arrest, and it leads us to a mystery that could hold the key to understanding what Mueller is about to do next.
Robert Mueller had been methodically building a grand jury case against Roger Stone, piling on with one witness and criminal charge after another, for several months. It’s what you do when your goal is to build such a comprehensive and overwhelming case, a conviction by a trial jury is all but guaranteed. It’s what Mueller did to Paul Manafort, and it appeared to be what Mueller was doing to Stone. But then Mueller changed strategy all but literally overnight.
Mueller brought in his grand jury on Thursday, even though it’s never in session on Thursday, so he could indict Roger Stone and then arrest him first thing Friday morning. At least half the expected criminal charges against Stone, many of which have nothing to do with the Trump campaign, are missing from the indictment. Mueller suddenly decided he needed to bust Stone right now on the Trump-related charges, in order to legally establish the Trump-Stone-WikiLeaks-Russia criminal conspiracy. The question is why. There are at least two plausible explanations.
The first would be that Mueller decided to hurry up and start taking big swings while the wind is blowing in his direction. He just got away with arresting Donald Trump’s best friend, meaning he’s found a way to neutralize Trump’s current Acting Attorney General stooge, Matthew Whitaker. Within weeks the Republican Senate will replace Whitaker with William Barr. Our guess is Mueller will figure out how to neutralize Barr as well, but maybe he doesn’t want to wait and take the chance, when he knows he can steamroll Whitaker now.
The second would be that Robert Mueller has finally completed his criminal case against Donald Trump, so he’s ready to take down the entire house of cards. The criminal case against Roger Stone isn’t complete yet? Too bad, round him up now, and go back and add to the indictment later. If so, look for Mueller to move in on other big fish as well, whether he’s done building the criminal cases against them or not. Stone’s arrest is a punch to Trump’s nose, and it means we’re off to the races.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report