Stone was the second close political adviser of Trump’s brought to trial on charges by Mueller’s team. The other was Stone’s former business partner, Paul Manafort, who was convicted in 2018 in a tax and bank fraud trial in Virginia. Manafort later pleaded guilty to other charges in a related case brought by Mueller in Washington, D.C. He is now in prison.
Six others – including Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to charges that arose from the special counsel’s probe.
Taken together, it’s striking to see what the Washington Post described as “the remarkable universe of criminality” surrounding the sitting president of the United States.
The number of criminals is important, but so too is the degree to which this dynamic conflicts with the message Trump has been eager to trumpet. As regular readers know, the president presents himself as being aggressively “tough on crime,” which he frequently tries to incorporate into his agenda. Earlier this year, while making the case for a border wall, the Republican declared, “The Democrats, which I’ve been saying all along, they don’t give a damn about crime. They don’t care about crime…. But I care about crime.”
Of course, given recent events, it’s hardly unreasonable to wonder whether he cares about crime or about surrounding himself with people who’ve committed crimes?
Let’s take stock of the number of presidential aides and associates who’ve faced felony charges:
* Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser and confidant, has been convinced on multiple counts.
* Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and business associate, is in prison.
* Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, is in prison.
* Rick Gates, Trump’s former campaign vice chairman, has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.
* Michael Flynn, Trump’s former White House national security advisor, has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.
* George Papadopoulos, Trump’s former campaign advisor on foreign policy, has already served his prison sentence.
* Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Manafort and Gates. has already served his prison sentence.
And those are just the top-line indictments. It doesn’t include the prison sentence for Richard Pinedo, the charges against related characters such as Sam Patten and Maria Butina, and, of course, the many Russian individuals and entities who’ve been indicted by the special counsel.
A year ago, the president wrote, in reference to the Mueller probe, “Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime?”
It was absurd at the time (Cohen made a surprise appearance in a New York courtroom to plead guilty to a new criminal charge a few hours after the tweet was published). It’s quite a bit worse now.
Update: The above list may yet grow, since there’s at least one person in his immediate orbit – Rudy Giuliani – who’s reportedly facing a criminal investigation.