The latest criticism of FBI tactics made by defenders of President Donald Trump and/or his indicted former associates is that the Friday morning break-out-the-big-guns arrest of Roger Stone was a bridge too far. Fox News personality Laura Ingraham went so far as to say that Stone was being treated like Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera. The problem is, legal experts in a position to know how the FBI conducts its business say this is standard operating procedure.
FBI agents, with guns out, arrested Stone early Friday morning at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He now faces an indictment for charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements, and a count of witness tampering.
National security lawyer Mark S. Zaid told Law&Crime that he’s seen the U.S. government do this with other cases. He would add that the FBI’s predawn raid was “generally normal procedure.”
Zaid also responded to Laura Ingraham on Twitter, saying the FBI response was “totally normal and routine.”
This type of FBI response – while I agree often seems unnecessary or over the top in a particular factual circumstance – is totally normal and routine. https://t.co/uDKhkWdG4Y
— Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) January 25, 2019
Ingraham was not alone in this opinion.
You don’t have to be a Roger Stone fan to be horrified by the stunt the FBI pulled off in conspiring with CNN this morning. The completely unnecessary raid is a routine that is straight out of a third-world police state. There is no defense of such an excessive show of force.
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) January 25, 2019
However, the FBI arrest of Stone’s former lobbying associate Paul Manafort, for instance, happened in a similar way:
Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records.
Former FBI special agent and current CNN analyst Josh Campbell, for his part, said that the FBI raid on Stone was “textbook.”
A textbook early morning FBI arrest of Roger Stone. He now becomes the sixth Trump associate charged by Robert Mueller. pic.twitter.com/1vdqcwa71q
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) January 25, 2019
Criminal defense attorney Page Pate told Law&Crime that the FBI’s “show of force at 6 a.m. was not unique.”
“That’s how most federal defendants are are arrested,” Pate said. “If he and his lawyer had been in contact and somewhat cooperative he probably would have been able to self-surrender.”
“Part of the problem could also have been that the case is out of D.C. so he would have had to travel,” he added.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, documents show, kept all of this under wraps and raided Stone’s home without warning because he was concerned Stone was a flight risk or that he might destroy evidence.
“Law enforcement believes that publicity resulting from disclosure of the Indictment and related materials on the public record prior to arrest will increase the risk of the defendant fleeing and destroying (or tampering with) evidence,” Mueller argued in a motion to seal the indictment we can now read. “It is therefore essential that any information concerning the pending indictment in this district be kept sealed prior to the defendant’s arrest.”
Law&Crime also asked Mark Zaid’s partner at the law firm Mark S. Zaid, PC, attorney Bradley P. Moss, about the manner in which the FBI hauled in Stone.
He simply said it occurred the way it did “Because absolutely no one trusted Stone not to flee.”
Others are taking issue with the fact that CNN had cameras rolling when the raid occurred, but at this time it’s not been made clear how CNN came to arrive on scene at the most opportune moment imaginable.
It's possible this tip-off came from FBI rather than Mueller's office, but either way, nobody should be comfortable having law enforcement engineer with media outlets the filming of someone's arrest at their home like a reality TV circus. But it's Roger Stone, so few will care. https://t.co/H7VvltkoCE
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 25, 2019
[Image via Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images]