The people who have found themselves at the center of Donald Trump’s criminal scandals aren’t just facing trouble – they’re facing trouble from all sides. This is perhaps best encapsulated by a predictable – yet nonetheless eyebrow raising – move that was made today by Trump’s oldest friend Roger Stone.
Roger Stone is currently awaiting trial on seven felony charges; he’s pleaded not guilty to all of them. Grand jury strongly suggests that Robert Mueller will attempt to tack on several more superseding charges later. So Stone has his hands full, right? He has to find a way to beat all these criminal charges at trial. The trouble: Stone is also facing a different kind of inquisition, and it’s left him with no good way to move forward.
That’s right, Roger Stone is invoking the Fifth Amendment in the hope of trying to get the House Judiciary Committee off his back. Legally speaking, pleading the Fifth is not an indicator of guilt. It simply means that Stone is unwilling to turn over evidence that he thinks might be used against him, even if he considers himself innocent. Mueller can’t go to trial and say to the jury, “See, Stone pleaded the Fifth to Congress, so he must be guilty.” It doesn’t work that way. But it reveals just how much of a no-win situation Stone is in right now.
We’ll see if the House Judiciary Committee now leaves Roger Stone alone, or if it pushes the issue with him. Even after invoking the Fifth Amendment, Stone is still required to turn over any evidence that incriminates other people, if there’s no chance that it also incriminates him. Either way, it’s a sign of just how thoroughly backed into a corner Stone is – and that description is increasingly fitting a whole lot of people in Trump’s orbit.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report