Roger Stone frenemy Randy Credico cuts up – in criminal trial
Over four decades, Randy Credico has been a comedian, an impressionist, a social justice warrior and a talk show host.
On Thursday he played the part of government witness, breaking up the criminal trial of his nemesis, Roger Stone, with off-the-cuff comments that left jurors laughing and the judge battling to maintain courtroom decorum.
Prosecutors sought Credico’s testimony to prove that Stone – a longtime Republican operative and sometime adviser to President Donald Trump – lied to a congressional committee about his communications with WikiLeaks during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, hampering its investigation into Russian interference in the race and potential campaign involvement.
Stone is also accused of berating and threatening Credico to prevent the comic from contradicting his House Intelligence Committee testimony in September 2017.
Moments after taking the stand, Credico was asked by prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky what he did for a living.
“It seems like I’m a professional witness,” he deadpanned. He was just warming up.
Credico and Stone met in 2002, he told the jury, when he was leading the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice and Stone was running an insurgent, third-party gubernatorial campaign in New York. Credico said he liked the ads he’d seen for the candidate, Tom Golisano (who lost), and sought out the man behind them, launching their rocky, 17-year relationship.
As Trump was clinching the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Credico said, the radio host was getting more airtime from WBAI, which he tried to fill with compelling guests. One of them was Stone.
“He was a great person to have on the show,” Credico told the court. “This would be a huge catch on my station,” especially in the run-up to the election. Stone was an adviser to the Trump campaign with a reputation as a political brawler and gadfly.
Stone had a radio show, too, “Stone Cold Truth,” for which Credico would do promotional spots using his talent for mimicry. In a November 2016 email shown to the jury, the comic offered Stone a roster of voices he could do, including Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, both presidents Bush and actors John Wayne, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino.
“Would you like to hear some of them?” he volunteered, to laughter in the courtroom. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson declined.
Zelinsky zeroed in on a name on the list in all caps, BRANDO GODFATHER, an impression Credico clearly relished. Credico explained that actors’ voices change over time, making the aging Marlon Brando’s voice in “The Godfather” distinct from his younger self in “On the Waterfront.”
Credico said he was tempted to do the “Godfather” Brando. The judge managed to resist.
“We know you’re a comedian, but this is serious,” Jackson observed.
Not long after Credico sent Stone the lighthearted catalog-of-voices email, their relationship grew darker.
Credico had had another notorious radio guest, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who called in for his interview in August 2016 on Credico’s cellphone from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he’d sought asylum.
In the late stages of the campaign, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of documents stolen from Democratic Party computers – by Russian military intelligence agents, the U.S. concluded – to tilt the election to Trump from Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Stone had claimed he had inside information from an intermediary on what was coming from WikiLeaks. Prosecutors allege he shared that information with senior Trump campaign officials. They also allege that one of Stone’s sources of information was the conservative author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.
Earlier Thursday, jurors heard from former FBI case agent Michelle Taylor. Through her testimony, prosecutors presented dozens of email and text messages between Stone and Credico, sent as Credico began to believe Stone was implicating him, not Corsi, as the WikiLeaks conduit. Stone was called to testify before the House committee and later did just that, fingering Credico for the panel as his go-between.
Credico testified Thursday that he’d had no contact with Assange prior to the WikiLeaks founder’s August 2016 appearance on his radio show, a booking coup he admittedly lorded over Stone (and that he pulled off through his close friend Margaret Kunstler, a lawyer for Assange). “It was kind of bragging,” he said. “I was trying to one-up him.”
But Credico denied having any knowledge of what WikiLeaks would publish from its trove of stolen documents.
“Julian Assange is not going to tell me about future releases,” he said.
That didn’t stop Credico from delivering a letter to Assange in London on behalf of the radio station in September 2016, asking if he wanted to do a weekly radio show for WBAI live from the embassy. The missive was received, Credico said, by a hand reaching out from the embassy door.
Congress’s demand for the business records came before it began its impeachment inquiry.
Stone pressured Credico to assert his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, to pretend he couldn’t remember – as Frank Pentangeli in “Godfather II” did when called to testify about organized crime – or to take the fall, the jury heard.
Jackson called a recess before Credico had finished his testimony. He’ll be back on the stand Friday.
Before releasing the jurors, the judge admonished them not to do any research on their own – and not to watch “The Godfather” on Netflix either.
The case is U.S. v. Stone, 19-cr-18, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).