Jury finds Stone guilty of lying to Congress
Roger Stone, the right-wing provocateur and longtime associate of President Trump, was convicted on Friday of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to feed the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016.
Jurors convicted Stone on all seven counts of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering. They deliberated for more than eight hours over two days, following a weeklong trial.
Stone and his lawyers made no comment as they left the courthouse and entered a pair of SUVs amid a swarm of camera crews and reporters.
The verdict marks another high-profile victory for former special counsel Robert Mueller, whose legal team alleged that Stone had tried to conceal from Congress his contacts with the Trump campaign and people he believed were feeding him inside information about WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the D.C. District Court, an Obama appointee, denied the government’s request that Stone be held in jail until his sentencing on Feb. 6, but ordered him to continue to abide by his gag order prohibiting him from using social media or otherwise making public statements about his case.
Stone faces the possibility of prison time. The witness tampering charge alone carries a maximum possible prison sentence of 20 years, though Stone, a first-time offender, would likely get a far lighter punishment.
President Trump came to his longtime adviser’s defense on Twitter Friday, using the opportunity to bring up grievances against his various political adversaries.
“So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come,” the president wrote. “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?”
Meanwhile, Democrats seized on the verdict as further evidence that illegal conduct is rampant within the president’s inner circle.
“The jury’s decision is a victory for truth and sends a powerful and timely message to President Trump and all House and Senate witnesses—past, present, and future—that lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of Congress are crimes and those who commit crimes do so at their own peril,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
During the trial, the jury heard testimony from two of Trump’s most senior aides from the campaign: Stephen Bannon, who served as the campaign’s chief executive before briefly advising the president in the White House, and Richard Gates, the former deputy campaign manager who reached a plea agreement with Mueller over various banking and financial fraud charges.
Prosecutors alleged that Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee in a September 2017 deposition when he told lawmakers that he had no records of communications with his intermediary with WikiLeaks or with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks. Stone was also accused of lying about the identity of his intermediary.
“The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad — the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” Aaron Zelinsky, a federal prosecutor, said at the beginning of the trial last week.
Both Gates and Bannon testified that the campaign had considered Stone to be its link to WikiLeaks, which in the latter half of 2016 released troves of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Gates also told the jury that he had been in a car with Trump in late July 2016 — shortly after WikiLeaks released its batch of hacked DNC emails — when he overheard a call between the candidate and Stone. After Trump hung up, Gates said that he “indicated that more information would be coming” from WikiLeaks.
Stone was also convicted of lying to Congress about the identity of his go-between with WikiLeaks. He told lawmakers that it was Randy Credico, a comedian and radio host who’s interviewed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but the prosecutors alleged that was a lie in order to protect the InfoWars-affiliated conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.
Evidence presented by prosecutors shows that Stone repeatedly pressured Credico not to cooperate with the House committee’s investigation. Credico ultimately decided to assert his Fifth Amendment rights after the panel issued him a subpoena.
Credico said on the stand that Stone’s influence played a role in that decision. The jury saw emails and text messages between the two showing Stone hurling invective at Credico, who was urging his friend to correct his testimony.
“You are a rat,” Stone wrote to him in April 2018. “A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds.”
“I am so ready,” Stone added. “Let’s get it on. Prepare to die, c–ksucker.”
Stone’s legal team argued that the self-described trickster was not trying to deceive Congress but that he believed the WikiLeaks controversy did not fit the House Intelligence Committee’s parameters of its investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the election.
His lawyers also argued that there was nothing improper in the Trump campaign seeking out information about a rival.
“In fact, so much of this case deals with that question that you need to ask: So what?” Bruce Rogow, a member of the defense team, told the jury.
Stone’s legal team did not call any witnesses and rested their case after playing an hourlong audio tape of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
Stone’s case became a spectacle for the political world.
Jackson imposed a gag order earlier this year because Stone would frequently criticize her in remarks to reporters and on social media. She expanded the gag order to include a blanket ban on the use of any social media platforms after he posted a picture of her with a crosshair next to her face.
Because of the gag order, Stone was uncharacteristically quiet throughout the trial, and he opted against testifying in his own defense. Still, jurors saw evidence of his reputation for outlandish behavior through evidence and testimony from associates.
The trial was also a magnet for other right-wing personalities. Among those making frequent appearances at the courthouse were Milo Yiannopoulous, the former Breitbart pundit; Jacob Wohl, known for pushing outlandish stories about high-profile Democrats and the lawyer and activist Larry Klayman.
–Updated at 1:55 p.m.
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