A reason Roger Stone was indicted — later convicted by a jury — only to have President Donald Trump commute his sentence on Friday was in part because of lies he told while grilled by House Intelligence panel member Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., who honed his cross-examination skills as a defense attorney at 26th and California.
Before Quigley was in Congress and before he was a Cook County Board member, his private defense practice kept him busy at the Criminal Court building on the West Side.
At 26th and Cal, Quigley said, “You learn a witness quickly, and you learn how to get to the point. After a couple hundred trials and motions, you learn how to get an answer.”
For Stone, “I think for him, what got him in trouble was his own ego,” Quigley said when we talked this weekend about the uproar triggered by Trump’s commutation — and Quigley’s role in the case.
Stone appeared before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Sept. 26, 2017 – with Quigley, a member of the panel since 2015, among those quizzing the man who reveled in being called a political “dirty trickster.”
The evening before the session, Quigley told me, as part of his prep to get a handle on Stone he watched the Netflix documentary, “Get Me Roger Stone,” about Stone’s scorched-earth tactics, hubris and the quest of the political operative to get his friend Trump elected president.
Stone was indicted on Jan. 24, 2019, on counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress over backchannel contacts with Wikileaks at that Quigley session. The case was an outgrowth of Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
On Friday, Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month sentence before he had to report July 14 to prison, a move seen by Democrats mainly as a reward to Stone for protecting Trump and not fully telling what he knew about how Trump was open to foreign help in the 2016 campaign.
Let’s rewind to spotlight Quigley’s role in this saga.
At the 2017 session, Quigley methodically pressed Stone about his backchannel contacts with Wikileaks, its founder, Julian Assange and the man Stone used as a go-between to find out information about the release of stolen Democratic emails.
Stone told Quigley the only way he communicated with his intermediary was over the phone.
That’s why when Stone’s federal trial kicked off in November 2019 prosecutors played for jurors the audio clip of Quigley quizzing Stone about his contacts with the go-between.
“Did you have any other means of communicating with the intermediary?” Quigley asked.
“No,” Stone said.
Federal investigators would discover the lie when they dug up Stone’s 72 emails and texts.
So where are we now?
Mueller’s report on Russia tampering in the election campaign ended up having little to no impact on Trump.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from the Ukraine controversy; in February the president was acquitted in a trial in the GOP-run Senate. Sen. Mitt Romney was the only Republican who voted to convict.
With complicit Republicans, the post-impeachment Trump is now unleashed, Quigley said.
He “now learns that they’re going to let him be above the law. We understand that by doing this, he feels that he can use the Justice Department” to protect his friends and “attack his enemies.
“…These are the actions of an autocrat. And that’s particularly scary,” since Trump could win a second term, Quigley said.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who wants Trump’s tax and other financial records as part of an ongoing probe into the Trump Organization. There are multiple legal hurdles that need to be cleared before anything is released.
“It’s frustrating,” said Quigley. “On the heels of the Supreme Court giving us the good legal decision, it was a practical defeat, that is, we’re not going to find out anything about the President’s finances until after November.”
PREDICTION: Trump will grant clemency for others convicted in Mueller’s probe — Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn.