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What Does The Legal Case Look Like For Ex-Trump Adviser Roger Stone?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How close does this case come to Russia, and how close does this case come to the president of the United States? Let's work through the evidence with former Assistant U.S. attorney Kim Wehle. Good morning.

KIM WEHLE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I want to start with the man who's indicted here, Roger Stone. I think about other figures who've been linked to Russia or Russian activity in the past couple of years, people like Carter Page. President Trump dismissed him as not being ever an important part of his campaign.

Paul Manafort was the campaign chairman. And yet the president has dismissed him as a guy who just worked for him for a little while. But Roger Stone, there's just no denying it at all. He's quite close to President Trump and has been for decades.

WEHLE: Yeah, and the - this indictment in particular, it refers to him as a senior official in the Trump campaign. And I think what really stands out is the numerous references to communications directly with the Trump campaign, both before and during the WikiLeaks releases of information that's - was damaging to the Clinton campaign.

INSKEEP: Yeah, I want to read, actually, just one line in this indictment mentioning one of those communications. It's dated 2016. So this is long after Roger Stone had formally left the Trump campaign, was clearly, though, still in the Trump orbit, as we heard Tamara Keith say.

And the indictment says, (reading) after the July 22, 2016, release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, which is WikiLeaks - we've figured that out - a senior Trump campaign official was directed - we don't know who directed him - was directed to contact Roger Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information WikiLeaks had regarding the Clinton campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by WikiLeaks.

Roger Stone is acting there as the intermediary, as the source, as the connection between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.

WEHLE: Yes, and the indictment details lots of emails and texts that back up that allegation. And it also suggests that the emails and texts - many of them came from Mr. Stone himself. And he lied about having this information. We need to remember the key date here, which is October 17, 2016. That's the date that President Obama announced that Russia was behind the hack of the DNC through an entity - a hacker called Guccifer 2.0, which was alleged to be a front for Russian operatives.

That same day, the "Access Hollywood" tape was leaked. And then WikiLeaks' postings of the Podesta emails started that same day. And that went on for many days. Thousands of emails were leaked at that point. And of course, Mr. Trump himself was making public statements sort of egging on WikiLeaks to release this kind of information.

So this is pretty at the - pretty much at the core of what people have called loosely collusion, but is really umbrella for sort of many other potential crimes and, really, a larger criminal enterprise that, as you indicated, involves lots of people that were close to the Trump campaign - Mr. Cohen, Mr. Manafort, Mr. Flynn, Mr. Stone, Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Gates, et cetera.

INSKEEP: So we have this friend of the president who's very close to the president, still close to the campaign. Let's work in the other direction back toward Russia. How strong, to our knowledge, is the evidence that WikiLeaks is in some way working with or in a way that is favorable to Russia?

WEHLE: Well, you know, in this indictment, I think the introduction makes the link without making it expressed. It says in May, the DNC became aware that their computer systems had been compromised by unauthorized intrusions. In June, the DNC announced that it had been hacked by Russian actors.

And in July, an organization, Organization 1, WikiLeaks, which had previously posted documents stolen, started releasing tens of thousands of documents stolen from the DNC and the personal email account of the chairman, Mr. Podesta, of the Clinton campaign. And then, of course, the indictment goes on to talk about how Mr. Stone communicated with the Trump campaign about the information damaging to Hillary Clinton coming out of WikiLeaks.

So we have to be careful about drawing any, you know, clear conclusions that aren't in the documents, in my view, that have been filed by the special counsel's office. And there's a lot of them. But I think, you know, we're at the point that it's quite easy to connect the dots with just our logical minds, as I tell my law students.

INSKEEP: Does this indictment significantly advance your understanding of what happened during the 2016 election, then?

WEHLE: Well, it does to the extent to which now we have lots of quotations from the direct communication between the Trump campaign - Mr. Stone, I should say - and this Organization 1. It also, I think, starts building this other thread of witness tampering. There's sort of "Sopranos"-like allegations in here - again, quotations about threats to someone known as - referred to as Person 2, that Mr. Stone threatened his dog, said you're a rat, a stoolie, prepare to die.

And of course, we've seen with Mr. Cohen other allegations of sort of obstruction of justice, lying, potentially bullying witnesses. And I think that as we've seen historically to the extent to which that is connected in any way with the president - has brought down presidents. Witness tampering has brought down both Mr. Clinton as well as Mr. Nixon in terms of the articles of impeachment.

INSKEEP: OK, Kim Wehle, former federal prosecutor, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

WEHLE: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: And she's talking with us on this day that we have learned that Roger Stone, friend and longtime adviser to President Trump, has been indicted and arrested on charges relating to stolen emails during the 2016 campaign or, more specifically, toward his statements about those stolen emails. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.