Asking someone whether they will flip in an investigation is generally a pointless question. Almost nobody admits they’re going to inform on the boss until they actually do it. Michael Cohen was going to “take a bullet” for President Trump, and he even convinced Trump of that. Then he flipped.
That said, Roger Stone’s answers to this question are curious.
Stone has been asked it a great deal thanks to his decision to make a series of media appearances since his indictment Friday. And his talking point has usually been some version of “I won’t bear false witness against Trump.”
“No matter how much pressure they put on me, no matter what they say, I will not bear false witness against Donald Trump,” he told Tucker Carlson on Friday night.
“There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president,” he added the same day.
“I’m not going to bear false witness against anybody,” he said Tuesday night on Fox News.
But that’s not exactly saying he wouldn’t cooperate; that’s just saying he won’t lie to implicate Trump in something (which, incidentally, Mueller doesn’t want either). And at other points, Stone has suggested cooperation of some form might be a possibility – even as it wouldn’t be damning for Trump personally.
Here’s an exchange with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you won’t bear false witness against President Trump. Are you prepared to tell the truth about your dealings with him to the special counsel, the truth about your dealings with the campaign? Any chance you’ll cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller if he asks?
STONE: You know, that’s a question I would have to — I have to determine after my attorneys have some discussion. If there’s wrongdoing by other people in the campaign that I know about, which I know of none, but if there is I would certainly testify honestly.
That seemed to be a different tune than Stone was singing Friday, when he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that it was “highly unlikely” he’d cooperate with Mueller. But even then, he left open the possibility.
“I have to know what the circumstances would be,” he said. “But it’s highly unlikely.”
With all this confusion, Fox News’s Laura Ingraham gave Stone a chance to clarify on Thursday night. But rather than offer a more Sherman-esque “I won’t flip,” he repeated his talking point and again suggested some form of cooperation was possible:
INGRAHAM: On Sunday, you told Stephanopoulos that he would be open, perhaps, to cooperating with Mueller. But just yesterday, you seemed to change your tune. What’s going on? Which is it?
STONE: Yes, I think that my comments on ABC may have been misconstrued. What I meant was, I’m not going to bear false witness against anybody. I’m going to tell the truth under oath and to the investigators if they have questions — subject, obviously, to the advice, format-wise, of my attorneys. But I’m not going to do what Michael Cohen has done. I’m not going to make up lies or bear false witness against Donald Trump or anyone else.
It’s worth noting in all of this that whatever you think of Stone, he’s a studied political messenger. He generally chooses his words carefully on stuff like this. I’ve recounted before how his denials of wrongdoing with regards to WikiLeaks seemed very carefully worded. And now that he’s been indicted and his contacts with WikiLeaks have been revealed, that has been revealed as no coincidence. He denied knowing about “the content, the source or the exact timing” of the WikiLeaks emails, for example, but now we know he knew something was coming.
Stone has now said multiple times that answering questions about what other people did is a possibility. He has also qualified that by saying he’s not aware of any wrongdoing.
Perhaps he can justify cooperation to himself by arguing that none of this rises to the level of a crime. He has said before that there is nothing wrong with working with WikiLeaks. If there’s no collusion, there’s nothing wrong with cooperating, right?
Either way, Stone has repeatedly been given a chance to make his intentions abundantly clear and say he won’t cooperate. He has declined to do so. He has repeatedly been given a chance to say he won’t flip on Trump, and he keeps saying instead that he won’t lie to implicate Trump.
That sounds like a guy who might be looking to save his own hide, but one who also wants the boss to think this won’t affect him. And you could forgive that from a man facing a seven-count indictment.