WASHINGTON – A jury convicted U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone on Friday, finding the Republican operative guilty on seven criminal counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
The verdict in a trial arising from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election renews scrutiny on Trump’s actions as a candidate at a time when he faces an impeachment inquiry that could derail his presidency.
Stone, a 67-year-old self-described “dirty trickster” and “agent provocateur,” was charged this year by special counsel Robert Mueller with obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee during its investigation into Russian election interference.
Stone’s colorful trial in federal court in Washington was as much about the rough-and-tumble world of politics as it was about technical legal arguments, such as whether Stone truly lied about WikiLeaks, since that website was never explicitly mentioned in the intelligence committee’s publicly stated parameters of its probe.
The trial featured testimony by political heavyweights including former Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon and former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates. Those witnesses said they believed Stone had inside information about when WikiLeaks might release more damaging emails about Trump’s Democratic 2016 election opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Prosecutors accused Stone of telling lawmakers five different lies related to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, which in 2016 disclosed a series of damaging emails about Clinton that U.S. intelligence officials and Mueller determined had been stolen by Russian hackers.
Some of those lies related to the existence of certain texts or emails, while others pertained to Stone’s conversations with Trump campaign officials and a supposed “intermediary” with WikiLeaks in early August 2016 whom Stone identified to lawmakers as being comedian Randy Credico.
Prosecutors said Stone did not actually start talking to Credico about WikiLeaks until later that month, and the actual person to whom he was referring in testimony as an “intermediary” was conservative author Jerome Corsi, who Stone dispatched in an email to “Get to Assange!” and get the emails. Corsi was not called as a witness in the trial.
Stone, who famously has the face of former President Richard Nixon tattooed on his back, was also accused of tampering with a witness, Credico, when Credico was summoned to testify before Congress and speak with the FBI. Both Stone and Credico have since said that Credico did not act as a WikiLeaks back channel.
WikiLeaks made public a private Twitter exchange between itself and Stone in which the website distanced itself from Stone, saying “false claims of association are being used by the democrats to undermine the impact of our publications.”
In emails and texts, the jury saw messages that Stone had sent Credico that included comments like “Prepare to die,” “You’re a rat. A stoolie,” and “Stonewall it. Plead the Fifth. Anything to save the plan,” in a reference to a famous Nixon Watergate quote. He also urged Credico to “do a Frank Pentangeli” — a reference to a “Godfather II” character who recants his congressional testimony against a mobster amid intimidation.