Roger Stone Found Guilty of Lying to Congress to Protect Trump

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Roger Stone, the eccentric longtime Trump confidant accused of lying to Congress in 2017 about his interactions with WikiLeaks and pressuring another witness to do the same, was found guilty in a Washington, D.C. federal court of all seven charges against him on Friday.

Stone, 67, was convicted of seven charges, including lying to congressional investigators, witness tampering, and obstructing justice. The charges stem from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—and were the last to be filed before the probe ended.  

The jury deliberated for seven hours over two days before returning the verdict. Dressed in a blue suit, Stone stood expressionless at the defense table with his left hand in his pocket as the verdict was read, according to The Washington Post.

As he left the courtroom, Stone offered a half-smile to reporters while his wife hugged supporters. The pair left without issuing a comment. Stone now faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, which will be set on Feb. 6.

President Trump slammed the verdict on Friday, claiming it was a “double standard.”

“So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come,” the president tweeted. “Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie? A double standard like never seen before in the history of our country?”

During the colorful, weeklong trial, prosecutors argued that Stone lied to and withheld documents from House Intelligence Committee investigators about his attempts to learn more about Democratic Party emails hacked by Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. 

“The evidence showed that Stone not only tried, but succeeded in impeding the committee’s investigation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis said in his closing statement Wednesday. “A person who is acting in good faith would not say and do the things that Roger Stone said and did… It shows you exactly what was in his head all along: to obstruct the committee’s investigation.”

At trial, several former members of Trump’s inner circle testified that they saw Stone as the campaign’s “access point” to WikiLeaks—a connection they hoped would produce more information on the anti-secrecy group’s plans to publish the hacked Democratic National Committee emails. 

“Roger is an agent provocateur. He’s an expert in the tougher side of politics, when you’re this far behind you’re going to have to use every tool in the tool box,” Steven Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, testified on Friday, according to Politico.

Prosecutors argued that Stone knowingly passed along information to the Trump campaign about the emails stolen by Russian agents and shared with WikiLeaks. Those emails were later released at critical points in the 2016 election cycle to help Trump secure the nomination, prosecutors alleged.

During his September 2017 deposition before House investigators, Stone lied about those communications and withheld key documents to protect the president, according to prosecutors. 

“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," Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky said in his opening statements.

Stone’s defense attorney, Bruce Rogow, argued his client did not knowingly lie, but thought the deposition was focused on Russia—and not his harmless interest in WikiLeaks. 

“There was nothing illegal about the campaign being interested in information that WikiLeaks was going to be putting out,” Rogow said, according to The Washington Post. “This is what happens in a campaign. They look for opposition information. It happens every day, it happens in every campaign.”

The longtime Republican operative, who worked on Nixon’s 1972 campaign and served as a lobbyist for Trump’s casino business, was one of the first people to join Trump’s campaign after he formally announced in June 2015. Although he left just two months later, several former officials testified Stone was still involved behind the scenes. 

Trump has denied knowing anything about communications between Stone and WikiLeaks, a claim that flies in the face of testimony at the trial.

Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, told jurors Tuesday that Stone hinted at a possible hack in April 2016—but was not taken serious by campaign officials until WikiLeaks released a batch of hacked emails from the DNC that July.

Gates, who was also hit with charges last year from Mueller’s investigation and testified as part of his plea agreement, said he saw Trump talk to Stone on the phone in July 2016 about WikiLeaks’ hacks.

“After Mr. Trump got off the phone with Mr. Stone, what did Mr. Trump say?” prosecutor Zelinsky asked Gates. “He indicated more information would be coming,” Gates responded. 

Prosecutors said phone records show Stone and Trump spoke on three occasions during the 2016 campaign, which they claim shows Stone was “giving the campaign inside information on those releases over and over again,” according to Politico. 

Bannon, who testified Friday under subpoena, said by the time he joined the campaign in August 2016, it was already known that Stone “had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.” In October 2016, he said Stone confided he had information about emails that would be “hurting Hilary Clinton and helping the Trump campaign.” 

Rogow argued that “Stone didn’t know anything” about WikiLeaks and that his email predictions were often inaccurate and based on public statements made by Assange. Prosecutors pushed back on Wednesday, noting several emails and text messages from Stone in which he repeatedly tried to get information from WikiLeaks.

“Roger Stone doesn’t get to choose which facts he thinks are important, and lie about the rest of them. The committee is entitled to the truth of facts under investigation, and wherever the truth takes them,” Kravis said.

To further cover his tracks, prosecutors said, Stone asked former stand-up comedian and radio talk-show host Randy Credico to act as an intermediary between him and WikiLeaks. Stone later allegedly threatened Credico to stay silent and lie about acting as an intermediary during his deposition.

“Stonewall it. Plead the Fifth,” Stone allegedly texted him. 

Credico told jurors in his two-day testimony that Stone urged him not to talk to Congress and turned him into a “patsy” after threatening his reputation. The comedian added Stone encouraged him to “do a Frank Pentageli”—referring to a scene in The Godfather Part II in which a witness lies to a Senate committee investigating organized crime by denying his previous implicating statements. 

“The person you saw testify is just not the kind of person who’s going to fool Roger Stone,” Kravis said Wednesday, noting that Credico refused to testify before Congress, according to Politico. “Roger Stone wasn’t tricked. He lied.”

Read more: www.thedailybeast.com

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