After we had to spend weeks listening to the doomsday pundits insist that Steve Bannon was winning because he would never be indicted for contempt, these same pundits then began insisting that Bannon is winning because he wanted to be indicted. Now that Roger Stone has been subpoenaed, we’ll likely hear narratives about how he also wants to be indicted, because it’s some kind of super secret pathway to victory. But here’s the thing.
Steve Bannon sought and accepted a Trump pardon earlier this year. So much for the notion that he wants to be on trial, or wants to go to prison, for the publicity. In reality Bannon is caught between a rock and a hard place because he’s reportedly under criminal investigation in New York, and if he cooperates with the committee, he risks further incriminating himself. So he’s having to pick his poison.
Then there’s Roger Stone, who’s in a similar situation. The DOJ has indicted multiple people around him in relation to January 6th, and there’s little doubt that Stone is a target of the probe. If Stone cooperates with the January 6th Committee, he’ll be providing evidence and testimony that the DOJ can then use to help indict him. And if Stone doesn’t cooperate, he’s making it easy for the DOJ to indict him for contempt. Stone could show up and try to repeatedly plead the fifth. But that’s not a magic wand either, given that he’d be providing the DOJ with a roadmap for how to investigate and prosecute him for January 6th, based on which specific questions he responded to by pleading the fifth.
So Roger Stone has no good options. Further, he’s already shown us that he’s deathly afraid of going to prison. He’s got forty years of dirt on Donald Trump, and when he was supposed to report to prison, he forced Trump to commute his sentence right in the middle of the 2020 election season – a move that Trump surely didn’t want to take the risk of making at that time. Then after Trump lost, Stone made Trump give him a full pardon.
Stone has made abundantly clear that he has no intention of ever spending a single day of his life in prison. If he wasn’t willing to spend a few months in prison during the 2020 election cycle, he’s not willing to go to prison now. This means that if pushed, he’ll flip on everyone around him in exchange for immunity.
None of us loves the idea of Roger Stone going free. But for Stone to go free, he’ll have to give up Donald Trump and others, and that’ll make it worth it. It’s difficult to predict if this means that Stone will cooperate with the committee against Trump in order to avoid a contempt charge, or if he’ll seek some kind of immunity deal with the DOJ so he can speak freely to the committee about Trump, or if he’ll wait to think about flipping until he’s indicted for contempt, or what. But the one certainty in this is that if Stone has to choose between reporting to prison and giving up Trump, he’ll give up Trump in a heartbeat. That was always going to be the case when it came down to it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report