It was a fast-moving day in Washington on Friday when it came to political news — so fast that the indictment of Roger Stone by the special counsel could be argued to have played second-fiddle to the news the government shutdown was temporarily over.
Stone, a longtime adviser to Donald Trump, had been in the crosshairs of Robert Mueller’s investigation for quite some time now, particularly due to allegations he knew more about stolen DNC emails than he was letting on. He stands charged with seven counts of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering, according to The New York Times.
Of certain note is The Times’ description of the rather, um, forceful way in which the Federal Bureau of Investigations decided to apprehend Stone.
“F.B.I. agents arrested Mr. Stone before dawn, appearing at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home with ballistic vests and guns drawn,” The Times reported.
“Agents typically use those tactics as a precaution to secure possible evidence and protect themselves in case a suspect fights arrest. Prosecutors sealed details of the case because they feared that public disclosure would increase the risk of Mr. Stone fleeing or destroying or tampering with evidence, according to court documents.
“F.B.I. agents were also seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Mr. Stone’s apartment in Harlem, and his recording studio in South Florida was also raided.”
The paper, meanwhile, went on to describe Stone’s appearance outside the courthouse where he vowed to fight the charges as “theatrical.” This, after the FBI went into the house of one of the most recognizable political surrogates in America, guns drawn and vests on in a pre-dawn raid, apparently convinced he was going to enter into some sort of standoff or destroy evidence en masse in a matter of minutes. Wouldn’t a search warrant and a few agents in a Suburban have done the trick?
The FBI can certainly make a show when they want to. However, one of the siblings of a student killed in the Parkland massacre noted the Bureau was less inclined to do so in other cases:
I wish the FBI raided my sisters killers home in Parkland the way they did Roger Stone.
Maybe my sister would still be alive.
— Hunter Pollack (@PollackHunter) January 25, 2019
“I wish the FBI raided my sisters killers home in Parkland the way they did Roger Stone,” Hunter Pollack, brother of Meadow Pollack, tweeted after the Friday raid. “Maybe my sister would still be alive.”
It would be easy to dismiss Pollack’s tweet as politically motivated. After all, his father — school-safety activist Andrew Pollack — has been known to favor conservative politicians.
However, to dismiss it would be to miss a very salient point.
— Hunter Pollack (@PollackHunter) March 29, 2018
Within days of the Parkland shooting, it became clear that the FBI had missed at least two tips on the suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz.
The first was a comment on a YouTube video in which Cruz said, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”
“In 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel,” Special Agent Rob Lasky of the FBI’s Miami division said in a statement, according to USA Today.
“No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time, location or the true identity of the person who made the comment. The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.”
The user name of the individual who made the comment was “nikolas cruz,” yet there was apparently a paucity of information regarding the individual who made the remark.
Just months after that tip, another individual called the FBI’s tip line, registering concerns about the Parkland shooter, namely “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
The FBI didn’t follow up, a violation of its own protocols.
“Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” the Bureau said in a statement. “The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”
In short, this is where a reaction like we saw by the FBI may have been justified — or at least some sort of reaction. Instead, we had nothing.
But when it came to Roger Stone, this SWAT-like raid was what we got. Stone wasn’t exactly a flight risk — after all, he was out of custody by the afternoon, not indicative of someone the government thinks is going to hop a plane to Bolivia with a fake passport.
As for destroying evidence, he already had plenty of time to do it if he was going to go that route. The idea of him taking a hammer to thumb drives or stuffing documents in a shredder with the FBI knocking on his door is patently absurd. “Oh, hold on a second, guys! I, um, have to find my robe! Give a man some dignity.” Yet this is the situation the full force of the Bureau was brought to bear upon.
Contrast the theatrics of Friday with the FBI’s reaction to Nikolas Cruz. That’s all Hunter Pollack asks. I think it’s a fair question to pose.