The Atlantic, January 24, 2019
If Donald Trump’s advisers had only watched The Wire, many of the president’s aides and associates might have saved themselves a great deal of legal trouble.
A scene from the HBO crime drama shows a character named Stringer Bell trying to broker peace between rival drug dealers, and trying to get them to abide by Robert’s Rules of Order. When the meeting adjourns, Bell walks up to a subordinate, who is busy scribbling on a legal pad.
“Motherfucker, what is that?” Bell asks.
“The Robert Rules say we gotta have minutes for a meeting. These the minutes,” he replies.
Astonished, Bell snatches the paper out of his hand. “Nigga, is you takin’ notes on a criminal fuckin’ conspiracy? What the fuck is you thinking, man?”
To have to apply that insight—that taking notes when engaging in a criminal conspiracy is a bad idea—to a presidential campaign would be unusual. But these are unusual times, and when it comes to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, it’s advice that the president’s advisers should have taken seriously. The more than half a dozen indictments of Trump’s former associates—including those of his former personal attorney, his campaign chair, and his national-security adviser—are built around blatant violations of the Stringer Bell rule.
Take Roger Stone, who was indicted Friday morning and arrested by FBI agents at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. According to the indictment, Stone—who is charged with obstruction of justice, making false statements, and witness tampering—not only lied to Congress, but attempted to persuade another witness to do so as well. Stone “spoke and texted repeatedly” with the unnamed witness, who has been identified in press reports as the conservative radio host Randy Credico, to try to get him to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’ before the House intelligence committee in order to avoid contradicting STONE’s testimony.” (Pentangeli is a character from the mafia film The Godfather: Part II who lies to a congressional committee.)
The indictment also states that Stone regularly emailed with Trump-campaign officials about the timing of releases from the organization WikiLeaks—document dumps that were meant to damage Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton. The documents were released by WikiLeaks after being stolen by an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate, the GRU. Believing that the messaging service WhatsApp was shielded from government surveillance, Stone texted Matt Boyle, a reporter for the pro-Trump website Breitbart News, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming,” an apparent reference to WikiLeaks.
But Stone is hardly the only example of a Trump adviser breaking the Stringer Bell rule. ...
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