Roger Stone lied to Congress after helping Trump win, prosecutor says
Republican operative Roger Stone lied to a congressional panel probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election after he helped his “longtime friend” Donald Trump win the presidency, a lawyer for the U.S. said as Stone’s criminal trial opened in Washington.
Stone lied “because the truth looked bad,” prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky told a federal jury on Wednesday. “The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.”
Steve Bannon, who with Paul Manafort led the Trump campaign for a time, will be among the government’s witnesses, Zelinsky told the panel. Stone messaged Bannon during the campaign to tell him time was running out and that he knew how to win, Zelinsky told the jurors.
“But it ain’t pretty,” Zelinsky said Stone told Bannon.
Stone is on trial for lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his communications with WikiLeaks while it published thousands of documents the U.S. believes Russia stole from Democratic Party computers to tip the election away from Hillary Clinton.
The 67-year-old Stone is also charged with obstructing the committee’s probe and threatening a witness, radio host Randy Credico, to prevent him from contradicting his story. He was indicted in January, the last man charged in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Stone “repeatedly lied under oath to a congressional committee and then threatened a witness to cover up his tracks,” Zelinsky said.
The trial comes at a time of increasing political peril for the president, who faces possible impeachment for tying $391 million in aid for Ukraine to its willingness to investigate a Trump rival, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian energy company. Those allegations against Trump are not part of Stone’s trial.
Read More: Stone Trial to Shed Light on Who Shared 2016 Campaign Dirt
Zelinsky began the trial by taking jurors through a narrative of skulduggery and shady characters.
On the day the Democratic National Committee announced it had been hacked in 2016, Stone called Trump, Zelinsky told the jury. 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.
“We do know that they spoke for approximately 10 minutes on candidate Trump’s personal line,” Zelinsky told the panel. About an hour after that call, he said, Stone emailed conservative author Jerome Corsi that a friend of theirs living in London should see WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Word is, friend in embassy plans two more dumps” that would be “very damaging,” Corsi said, according to Zelinsky.
Stone emailed campaign chairman Manafort, an old friend, in early August to say he had an idea “to save Trump’s ass,” Zelinsky told the jurors, and Manafort called him.
It is these communications that the U.S. alleges Stone lied to Congress about.
The most serious charge facing Stone is tampering with Credico, whom Stone warned to “do a Frank Pentangeli,” Zelinsky told the jury, a reference to the “Godfather II” character who falsely claims not to recall crucial information sought by Congress. Credico didn’t want to do that, the prosecutor said, so Stone got him “to clam up.”
On Jan 25, 2018, during the Mueller probe, Stone told Credico to tell Mueller to “go f–- himself,” Zelinsky said.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson spent all day Tuesday and part of Wednesday weeding through potential jurors. Among those questioned by the judge was a man who said his impression of Stone was that of a “dirty trickster,” dredging up a description hung on him decades ago.
“I know he has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back,” the man said.
Stone does indeed wear a likeness of the 37th president between his shoulder blades, harking back to perhaps his earliest national political campaign. Asked what he associates with the Nixon image, the potential juror replied, “He was known as Tricky Dick.”
The man was excused.
The case is U.S. v. Stone, 19-cr-18, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).