Roger Stone’s Trump Defense Backfires As He Carefully Avoids Russia Collusion Question

Long time Trump confidante and former campaign adviser Roger Stone told the media Tuesday after testifying in a closed hearing on the Trump Russia probe of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee that he “expressed my view” that he is “aware of no evidence whatsoever of collusion by the Russian state or the Trump campaign or anyone associated with Donald Trump.”

Talk about a carefully prepared statement. Note that he does not deny there was collusion. He can only say for sure that in his view, he is aware of no evidence of it.

“Both during the campaign and for a number of years, I have had no contact whatsoever with Russian intelligence, the Russian state, anybody who might be fronting for the Russians, anybody in Russia, anybody with a Russian last name, absolutely, positively not,” Stone said on video tape in a studio setting reported by Reuters. So that’s encouraging, no?

However, in March, Stone told Business Insider “that he had a private conversation on Twitter with the person, nicknamed ‘Guccifer 2.0,” and that the interaction was so “brief and banal, I had forgotten it.'”

Stone denies that Guccifer could be a front for the Russians, Guccifer denies that they are a front for the Russians, but the U.S. intelligence community thinks Guccifer, with whom Stone communicated, is a front for the Russians.

In a 47-page opening statement seen and reported by Patricia Zengerle of Reuters before his appearance today, Stone said he viewed his appearance “as a political proceeding”, criticized some Democratic members of the panel, and expressed a desire to have testified in an open forum.

It would have been the majority, that is the Republicans, who determined that Stone’s appearance was behind closed doors.

MSNBC host Joy Reid pointed out on Twitter that Roger Stone repeatedly claimed advanced knowledge of Wikileaks Clinton dumps. Stone’s claims suggest that it’s possible that Stone didn’t speak to the Russians directly, but did interact somehow with WikiLeaks as a possible intermediary.

From that CNN article, “In the final months of the 2016 campaign, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone repeatedly discussed his backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and claimed knowledge of forthcoming leaks from the group, a CNN KFile review of his public statements shows.”

“There is one ‘trick’ that is not in my bag and that is treason,” Stone said, according to Reuters.

For all of the outrage, though, Stone gave the media a very carefully prepared statement that avoids the actual question, and frames it around his view.

Stone’s “view” disagrees with the U.S. intelligence community. His “view” denies established facts in order to claim that there was no collusion.

This is being reported as an outright denial of collusion, but that’s not how he framed it to CNN and when he does, his statement is predicated on his view that the folks he was communicating with were not Russians or Russian fronts. This “view” is very important, because it seems to be inaccurate.