Roger Stone, a political operative and longtime friend of President Trump, told lawmakers he had no records of conversations with anyone about WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, according to a recording played for jurors in DC
In fact, prosecutors allege, Stone discussed the matter extensively with his own associates and members of the Trump campaign and kept documentation – that investigators have in emails and other evidence.
On the second day of testimony in Stone’s trial in federal court in Washington for making false statements to Congress and witness tampering, prosecutors on Thursday began to lay out some of that paper trail – comparing it to Stone’s own, recorded words to the House Intelligence Committee. Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Kravis zeroed in on Stone’s talks with one particular associate of his – former talk show host Randy Credico – who Stone said he used as an intermediary to get information on WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked emails that could be damaging to the campaign of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s opponent n 2016.
“ On the day that Roger Stone testified to the committee and said his intermediary ‘was not an email guy’, how many written communications did Roger Stone have with Randy Credico? ”Kravis asked an investigator in court.
“Seventy-two,” the former FBI agent, Michelle Taylor responded, citing Stone’s phone and text records.
Taylor also presented to jurors a chart of Stone’s calls with Trump campaign officials in the 2016 time frame, showing 25 calls with campaign chairman Paul Manafort, 20 with his deputy, Rick Gates, and two with Trump himself. Taylor noted investigators were not certain what was said on the calls.
The trial is the last case filed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Mueller and U.S. intelligence agencies have asserted that Russia hacked Democrats’ emails and passed them to WikiLeaks so they could be published, and investigators were exploring whether the Trump campaign, perhaps through Stone, coordinated in that effort.
While the trial is focused on Stone’s alleged lies to Congress, prosecutors assert Stone was motivated by a desire to protect Trump’s reputation, putting the president at the center of the proceedings. Stone has pleaded not guilty.
Stone, a self-professed “dirty trickster” since the 1970 s, has found a defense that takes advantage of his unsavory reputation: Don’t believe me or anyone else.
Stone claimed throughout 2016 to have an intermediary feeding him information on WikiLeaks’ plans to release the hacked emails. Texts and emails from Stone shown in court have him suggesting that he had two go-betweens: conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and Credico, both of whom forewarned Stone of coming dirt on Clinton.
But “it’s made-up stuff,” defense attorney Bruce S. Rogow has told jurors. “People were playing Mr. Stone. He took the bait. ”
Stone“ did brag about his ability to try to find out what was going on, ”Rogow had said during his opening statement Wednesday, but ultimately learned only what was in “the public domain.”
A longtime Trump adviser and political consultant, Stone told Trump campaign officials and associates that more damaging Clinton emails would be coming throughout the late summer and early fall of 2016. When emails belonging to Clinton’s campaign chairman were released on Oct. 7, an employee of Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon emailed Stone to say, “Well done.”
Stone, 67, claimed inside knowledge, Rogow said, because “he was playing others himself” and such claims “play in politics… in newspaper articles, in public. ”
Prosecutors have counteredthat“ the evidence in this case will show Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump, ”as Aaron Zelinsky, who was a member of Mueller’s team, told the jury of nine women and three men.
On the recording played for jurors Thursday, lawmakers asked Stone directly about the identity of his purported “go-between” or “back-channel” to WikiLeaks, saying that person could be a key witness to corroborate or contradict Stone’s account of his interactions with the anti-secrecy group and andAssange. Stone intiailly refused to answer – saying that person was a journalist who had not released Stone from a pledge to respect his anonymity —though he later wrote the committee and said the person he had discussed WikiLeaks with was Credico.
Rogow, Stone’s attorney told jurors Wednesday that Stone went into the committee thinking he would be asked questions about Russia rather than about WikiLeaks. “He goes into this bare, naked,” Rogow said of Stone’s exchanges with House investigators. “His state of mind undermines any argument that he did this in a conscious, evil, purposeful way to mislead the committee.”
What prosecutors labeled a conspiracy to thwart a congressional investigation, Stone’s lawyers framed as meaningless bragging and confusion among a group of eccentrics.
Stone also is accused of trying to tamper with a witness by threatening Credico not to contradict him and on Thursday the exchanges with Credico consumed much of the morning’s testimony.
Taylor, the FBI agent, read a text Stone Stone sent to Credico on Nov. 17, 2017, about how he should respond to the committee’s investigation to try to bolster that case.
“Stonewall it, plead the fifth, do anything to save the plan,” the text read.
Asked by Kravis if Taylor recognized the phrase, she testified, “it’s a paraphrase of something President Nixon said to [then-white House counsel] John Dean and [attorney general] John Mitchell during the Watergate Investigation. ”Stone,who views Nixon as an idol and mentor, has a tattoo of the former president on his back.
Kravis also asked Taylor to read from a Nov. 28, 2017, text that Stone sent Credico, after Credico was subpoenaed, advising Credico to “do your frank cannon 10 july (sic) imitation, ‘sure roger stone this, roger stone that.’ ”
Stone typed moments later that he was referring to Frank Pentangeli, a film character from The Godfather Part II.
On the witness stand, the former FBI agent was left to explain the cinematic reference. Judge Amy Berman Jackson in motions before trial said the movie clip couldn’t be shown to jurors because it could be prejudicial to Stone but that the transcript could be used.
Petangeli, the former FBI agent said, is supposed to appear as a witness in a Senate hearing into the Corleone organized crime family, but sees the family’s godfather, Michael Corleone, enter the room with Petangeli’s brother. His **** changes from cocky to somber.
“When he’s being questioned, Mr. Petangeli is asked his affiliation with the Corleone family, and he says he doesn’t know anything about it, ”Taylor testified.
Stone and Credico had a“ strange relationship, ”Rogow said, and Credico is“ an impressionist. ”When Stone told Credico to“ do a Frank Pentangeli ”before the committee and feign forgetting information so as not to contradict Stone, Rogow suggested he was merely asking his friend to act out a scene from the second “Godfather” movie.