By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Roger Stone, CC by NA
November 15, 2019 (Washington D.C.) – “You are a rat. A stoolie. Prepare to die,” long-time Trump ally Roger Stone texted to a witness slated to appear before the House Intelligence Committee regarding Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia ties. The trial revealed damning evidence not only against Stone, but also evidence discrediting statements made by Donald Trump in which Trump denied discussing hacked emails during his presidential campaign.
The witness, radio host Randy Credico, was Stone’s intermediary to Wikileaks and Julian Assange to obtain details on e-mails stolen from the Democratic National Committee that were damaging to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 political rival. Stone also urged the witness via e-mail to follow the actions of “Godfather II” character Frank Pentangeli, who lied to Congress to avoid incriminating Mafia boss Michael Corleone.
Today, a federal jury found Stone guilty on all seven counts including witness tampering and lying to Congress during the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Prosecutors said Stone falsely told Congress he had no emails or text messages about talking to Wikileaks, when in fact there were more than 1,500 such texts and emails with Credico, whom he also urged to “stonewall” or “take the 5th”. Credico ultimately asserted his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and refused to testify to the House Committee. Lawmakers have since said this caused them to not followup promising leads and to reach false conclusions in their final report on Russia’s 2016 election interference.
Stone faces up to 50 years in federal prison. He is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 6.
He is the last of many Trump advisors who were convicted or pled guilty of crimes resulting from Mueller’s investigation, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (in prison for financial crimes), former national security advisor Michael Flynn (who pled guilty of lying to investigators about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador), former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen (n prison after admitting he lied to Congress on Trump’s plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia, and for paying off women who claimed to have had sex with Trump), former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates (wo pled guilty to lying to prosecutors), and former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos (who pled guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Russians.)
Gates testified he overheard Trump talking to Stone on the phone in July 2016 after Wikileaks began publishing DNC emails. Gates said Trump told him “More information is coming,” after Trump’s call with Trump. That contradicts Trump’s written statements to Mueller, in which Trump said he did not recall being told about discussions of the hacked emails. Gates cooperated with prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence and pled guilty to lying to investigators.
Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist, was also a witness for the prosecution against Stone.
Stone did not testify, and his defense team did not call a single witness on his behalf. Instead the defense lawyers claimed “no collusion with Russia” and argued that even if his efforts to illegally obtain information from Wikileaks to damage Clinton were true, “so what?” attorney Bruce Rogow told the jury. Stone’s defense team also claimed his messages to a witness were crude by not “malignant,” an assertion jurors rejected.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marando told jurors, “Truth matters,” a fact which apparently resonated with the jury, which issued a unanimous verdict.
Stone has a long history as a political operative engaged in shady dealings, dating back to alleged dirty tricks for the campaign of Richard Nixon, who later resigned the presidency under threat of impeachment for covering up knowledge of the Watergate break-ins.
Trump reacted to the guilty verdicts against Stone by showing no concern over the actions of Stone, instead attacking prosecutors and accusing Mueller of lying. He also bemoaned lack of prosecution of “Crooked Hillary, Comey” and others as “a double standard like never seen before in the history of our country.”
The verdict comes as impeachment hearings are underway in the House of Representatives looking at whether President Trump withheld military aide to the Ukraine in an effort to bribe Ukraine into investigating Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 Trump rival Joe Biden. Hunter Biden was a consultant for a Ukrainian company.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the highest ranking Senate Democrat, said the jury’s decision on Stone “sends a powerful and timely message to President Trump and all House and Senate witnesses – past, present and future – that lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of Congress are crimes and those who commit crimes do so at their own peril.”