Roger Stone lied because 'truth looked bad' for Trump, say prosecutors

Cheryl Sanders
November 9, 2019

Former Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon will testify as a government witness against former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who's facing charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction.

Stone - a self-described "dirty trickster" and "agent provocateur" - has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in its investigation into Russian Federation interference in the 2016 election.

In the months leading up to the election, WikiLeaks disclosed numerous emails - stolen from Democrats by Russian state-backed hackers, according to USA intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller - that proved embarrassing to Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

"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", prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky told the jury of nine women and three men at the federal courthouse in Washington.

Prosecutors said they would seek testimony in court from Bannon, Rick Gates, who served as Trump's deputy campaign chairman, and Stone's onetime associate Randi Credico, who has been described by the prosecution as an "intermediary" between Stone and WikiLeaks. Not long after the session resumed, Stone himself went home early, telling U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that he had food poisoning.

The first day of Stone's criminal trial - where he faces charges of witness tampering and making false statements to Congress - fittingly descended into a circus, cut short by health emergencies, protesters, and a 30-minute bathroom break by the defendant mere minutes into the proceedings.

"This case is not about who hacked the Democratic National Committee servers".

Zelinksy said Stone told those lies because if Congress had found out about his many emails and texts about the quest to learn what WikiLeaks had on Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, "it would have unraveled all of the other lies Roger Stone told". The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone.

About an hour after the call, Stone sent an email to conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi about the "friend in the embassy", a reference to Assange, said the prosecutor.

The first witness was a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent named Michelle Taylor who was one of Mueller's investigators, who testified about records showing phone calls between Stone and Trump. The alleged intermediaries, like Credico and Corsi, were playing Stone, and Stone was playing them, he posited. Later, after WikiLeaks had made the first of its massive email dumps against the Clinton campaign, Stone "started bragging that he was in contact with WikiLeaks", the prosecutor said.

Then, on July 31 of that year, he said, Stone called Trump again.

Prosecutors noted that Stone, in sworn testimony to the Intelligence Committee, denied that these communications ever occurred.

Stone's trial could take two weeks or more, partly because of the amount of evidence.

Two days later, Corsi emailed back and said their friend planned two more disclosures of hacked emails, Zelinsky said.

Rogow argued that members of the committee deviated from the previously agreed upon, "publicly stated scope of the investigation", which he said was Russian Federation, not WikiLeaks.

Wednesday's court session also included testimony from Michelle Taylor, an FBI agent for 14 years who previously worked on the special counsel's investigation focused on Stone. Stone's indictment in January stems directly from Mueller's investigation.

Mueller documented Russian efforts to boost Trump's candidacy, and his probe led to criminal charges against several Trump advisers and campaign aides. His longtime business partner Paul Manafort was sentenced earlier this year to more than seven years behind bars.

Manafort was convicted by a Virginia jury last year and is now incarcerated after being sentenced to 7½ years in prison.

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