Court Battles

Jury set to begin deliberating in Stone trial

Aaron Schwartz

The jury in Roger Stone’s criminal trial is set to begin deliberating after hearing closing arguments from federal prosecutors and the right-wing political operative’s defense team on Wednesday.

The two sides traded closing shots in the trial over whether Stone lied to lawmakers about his communications with the Trump campaign as well as those he saw as back channels to WikiLeaks in 2016.

On Thursday morning, after a weeklong trial, the judge will deliver jury instructions and deliberations will begin.{mosads}

Stone, a longtime associate of President Trump, had painted himself during the campaign as having an intermediary who was feeding him advanced information from WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange, about its plans to release emails that were hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

In its closing argument, the prosecution presented to the jury clips from Stone’s September 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that it said were lies aimed at protecting Trump. The committee at the time was investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the election.

“Mr. Stone obstructed that investigation,” said Jonathan Kravis, one of the federal prosecutors on the case. “He lied in his sworn testimony before the committee, and he tampered with a witness who could have exposed those lies.”

Stone’s attorney, Bruce Rogow, told the jury his client had no reason to lie and that there was no need to protect Trump, who had already been in office for nine months by the time of Stone’s testimony.

“Beyond that, there was nothing illegal in the campaign being interested in the information that WikiLeaks would be sending out,” Rogow said.

He also argued that his client believed the congressional committee was focusing its questioning on Russia and its role in the election, which Stone had not acknowledged was behind the hacks that led to the WikiLeaks dumps.

The case could hinge on whether the jury thinks Stone intended to mislead lawmakers. According to the transcript of his deposition, Stone denied having any written communications with those he believed to be intermediaries with Assange or with any other parties about the WikiLeaks releases. 

In fact, the prosecution showed that Stone left a long paper trail of communications with members of the Trump campaign’s highest levels as well as two men he had pushed to obtain information from Assange — conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and Randy Credico, a political activist and radio host.

Stone eventually told Congress that his go-between with WikiLeaks was Credico. Credico has denied that claim, and prosecutors allege Stone told a lie intended to protect Corsi.

Stone is also charged with witness tampering for telling Credico repeatedly that he should plead the fifth after Congress asked him for testimony. Prosecutors presented messages between the two showing Stone hurling vulgar insults at Credico as he urged him not to cooperate with the lawmakers’ investigation.

But Rogow said that the messages fit a long-running dynamic between the two men who have had something of an on-again, off-again friendship.

“These two guys tampered with each other for 20 years,” Rogow said. “That’s the way these two guys operated.”

The jury heard four days of testimony that included appearances by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign CEO and onetime White House adviser, as well as Rick Gates, the former deputy Trump campaign manager who was convicted of various fraud charges and is facing up to 10 years in prison.

They both testified that the campaign saw Stone as the “access point” to WikiLeaks. And Gates said on the stand that Stone had told Trump in a phone call that WikiLeaks was planning more releases after its initial publication of thousands of DNC emails.

Rogow downplayed Stone’s political machinations, saying there was nothing illegal about his talks with the campaign.

“In fact, so much of this case deals with that question that you need to ask, so what?” Rogow told the jury.

Michael Marando, a member of the prosecution team, responded by imploring the jury to believe that “truth still matters.”

Updated at 4:52 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Julian Assange Rick Gates Roger Stone Steve Bannon
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