Roger Stone, a self-described “dirty trickster” and longtime adviser to Donald Trump, was found guilty on Friday of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The verdict makes Stone only the latest among a growing list of people once in the president’s inner circle who have been convicted on federal charges. News of Stone’s convictions came as dramatic testimony at the public impeachment hearing unfolded on Capitol Hill.
A jury found Stone guilty on all seven counts, including lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a House intelligence committee investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
Trump reacted immediately, asking on Twitter if the conviction amounted to “a double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?”
“So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. 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?” Trump tweeted, naming political opponents whom he frequently targets.
The verdict, in a trial arising from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, is not only a blow to Stone but renews scrutiny on then candidate Trump’s activities at a time when he faces an impeachment inquiry that could derail his presidency.
The 67-year-old Stone, who also calls himself an agent provocateur, was charged earlier this year, including on accusations of lying to the House intelligence committee during its investigation Trump-Russia hearings as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry.
He is allowed to remain free until his sentencing, set for 6 February. Stone had denied the allegations.
Stone’s colorful trial in federal court was as much about the rough-and-tumble world of politics, as it was about hair-splitting 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 investigation.
The trial featured multiple references to The Godfather Part II, a Bernie Sanders impersonation, and testimony by political heavyweights including the former Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon and former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates, each of whom said they believed Stone had inside information about when WikiLeaks might release more damaging emails about Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Bannon testified in court that he believed Stone was the “access point” to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, even as he denied that the Trump campaign had no direct contact with the activist website or its founder, Julian Assange.
Prosecutors accused Stone of telling lawmakers five different lies related to WikiLeaks andAssange, which in 2016 dumped a series of damaging emails about Clinton that US intelligence officials and Mueller later concluded had been stolen by Russian hackers.
Some of those lies relate to the existence of certain texts or emails, while others pertain 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 and radio talkshow host 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 the conservative author Jerome Corsi whom Stone dispatched in an email to “Get to Assange!” and get the emails.
Corsi was not called as a witness in the trial.
Stone, a close Trump ally who 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, who took the stand in the case, have since said that Credico did not act as a WikiLeaks back channel. Credico testified in court that Stone pressured him into supporting lies he span to Congress, even threatening his pet dog, Bianca, which he has owned for 12 years.
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 repeatedly urged Credico to “do a Frank Pentangeli” – a reference to a Godfather II character who recants his congressional testimony against a mobster amid intimidation.
A lawyer for Stone dismissed the Pentangeli reference, saying Credico had done impressions of the character in the past, and said the “odious language” they used was just part of how they interacted.
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