Roger Stone lied to Congress about his attempts at back channel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange because ‘the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,’ a federal court heard Wednesday.
Stone’s long-awaited criminal trial began formally as prosecutors outlined their case for the first time – putting Donald Trump at the heart of the case.
They also said the trial will hear from Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s most senior aides in the latter stages of the campaign and in the White House, as well as claims Stone threatened a dog’s life.
But the 67-year-old was all smiles as he arrived promptly for the start of proceedings today flanked by African American pastor Randy Short, who was wearing full robes and sunglasses.
‘They go back years, they have been friends for a while, he’s something of a spiritual advisor,’ said Delyon Gigger, an associate minister of the Liberation Church, based in Washington, D.C.
Kiss of peace: Roger Stone and wife Nydia are greeted by Randy Short, an evangelical pastor who was with him for ‘moral and spiritual support’
Protest: An inflatable rat dressed as Donald Trump was put up to greet Roger Stone as he arrived at court for the second day of his trial; prosecutors put the real-life president at the heart of the case
Low-key entrance: Roger Stone has eschewed his trademark channeling of Richard Nixon after a gag order was imposed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson
THE CHARGES AGAINST ROGER STONE
Roger Stone is charged with:
1. Obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering by trying to get Randy Credico to lie to Congress
2. Lying to Congress that he did not have emails or texts about Julian Assange
3. Lying when he claimed his references to being in touch with Assange were actually about a ‘go-between’ – Randy Credico
4. Lying that he didn’t ask his ‘go-between’ to communicate with Assange
5. Lying that he didn’t text or email the ‘go-between’ about WikiLeaks
6. Lying that he had never discussed conversation with his ‘go-between’ with anyone in the Trump campaign
‘He’s here for spiritual and moral support. He supports him but I can’t speak on how he feels about his innocence or guilt. I don’t think he’s guilty, I think it’s hogwash.’
Stone has previously described himself as a ‘libertarian and a libertine’ and said he was ‘trysexual – I’ve tried everything.’
As federal prosecutors – who work ultimately for Donald Trump – outlined their case, Stone sat beside his legal team, which had already largely failed to keep government workers and people who dislike the president off the jury.
Jurors heard that Stone, a wily GOP political operative and long-time confidante of Trump, seized upon the 2016 hacking of Democratic National Committee Emails as an opportunity to help his friend get into the White House at Hillary Clinton’s expense.
He used two associates to try to tease information from WikiLeaks about their plans to publish stolen emails embarrassing to then candidate Clinton and updated senior members of the Trump campaign on his efforts, even making a series of phone calls to Trump himself.
But when asked to testify to the House Intelligence Committee one year later about Russian involvement in the DNC hack and attempts to interfere with the 2016 General Election, Stone ‘repeatedly lied under oath to cover his tracks’ and hid a trove of emails, texts and documents from their ‘critical’ inquiry, said prosecutor Aaron Zelinksy.
‘In a critical investigation of national importance, the defendant, Roger Stone, repeatedly lied under oath to a congressional committee and lied under oath to cover his tracks,’ he told Stone’s trial.
THE ODD COUPLE: ‘TRYSEXUAL’ STONE AND HIS ANTI-GAY PASTOR
It is unclear how Stone’s previous boasts about his sexually-charged lifestyle might be seen by Dr. Randy Short, the pastor who arrived with him Wednesday.
Stone has called himself a ‘trysexual – I’ve tried everything,’ and a ‘libertarian and a libertine,’ in an interview conducted in a swinging club.
But Short has compared gay rights to Nazism and homosexuality to pedophilia.
In February, he launched a group called Gone Too Far with two other African-American clergymen which calls homosexuality ‘a behavioral choice,’ opposes a ban on conversion therapy, and says an Equality Bill passed by Democrats in Congress is pushed by ‘the radical sodomite agenda,’ would make pedophiles a ‘protected class’ and called it ‘the pedophile bill.’
He calls blacks who support Democrats ‘c**ns’ and ‘sellout slaves’
The website RightWingWatch.org recorded him as saying at the launch: ‘We don’t need a Hitler; we’ve got LGBTQ.’
Short previously traveled to Iran to attend an anti-Israel conference along with Louis Farrakhan. He was questioned on his return by Customs and Border Patrol officers.
In 2016 he organized a press conference in Washington D.C. with Danney Williams, a man from Little Rock who claims he is Bill Clinton’s love child.
‘The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad, the truth looked bad for the Trump Campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.’
The long-time Republican strategist was indicted by a grand jury as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.
In his opening remarks, Zelinksy described how Stone publicly bragged about his contacts with WikiLeaks in 2016 and proclaimed ‘over and over’ that he knew when they were about to publish emails plundered from the DNC’s computer.
Then, on June 14th 2016, hours after senior Democrats admitted their server had been breached Stone, made a phone call to then-candidate Trump, the court heard.
‘We don’t know the content, we do know there was a conversation just after the DNC announced it had been hacked,’ Zalinsky said.
The two men spoke again on the phone for ten minutes after WikiLeaks began releasing the cache of stolen materials in July of that year.
‘Again, we do not know the content but we do know that Roger Stone spoke to then candidate Trump and we do know they spoke for approximately ten minutes on then candidate Trump’s personal line,’ the prosecutor added.
About an hour after the call Stone sent an email to an associate named Jerome Corsi, an author and a political commentator, telling him that a friend living in London ‘should go see Julian Assange’ and ‘get a hold of emails’ that Assange had up his sleeve.
Corsi was one of two men Stone communicated with about WikiLeaks however he would later try to hide Corsi’s involvement, instead claiming his sole conduit was a comedian and radio host named Randy Credico, prosecutors allege.
Despite his repeated references to Trump, Zalinsky said the case was not about who hacked the DNC computers, whether Stone had any contact with Russian operatives or politics in general.
‘This case is about Roger Stone’s false testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in an attempt to cover the investigation and to tamper with evidence,’ he added.
According to the government’s indictment, Stone is accused of telling five lies during his September 26 2017 testimony.
They say he lied that he did not have emails or texts about WikiLeaks and lied that he didn’t ask his ‘go-between’ to communicate with Assange.
Set to proclaim his innocence: Roger Stone, who walked into court arm-in-arm with his second wife Nydia, denies all charges
In the hot seat: The trial is being overseen by federal judge Amy Berman Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee
Key part of case: Prosecutors say they will show how Stone threatened to kill Bianca the Coton de Tulear, comedian Randy Credico’s 13-year-old therapy dog; and call Steve Bannon as a witness against the veteran dirty trickster
It’s alleged he lied that he only had one associate acting as a back channel when he allegedly had two, and both lied and tampered with a witness when he later tried to get one off those individuals, Credico, to mislead Congress.
Finally, Stone is accused of lying that he had never discussed conversations with his ‘go-between’ with anyone in the Trump campaign. Zalinsky said Stone in fact had repeated contact with senior members of the Trump campaign including jailed one-time chair of the Trump Presidential Campaign, Paul Manafort, and the President’s divisive former aide, Steve Bannon.
‘You’re gonna hear from Steve Bannon,’ he teased jurors, revealing that Stone had emailed Bannon on August 3 2016, weeks after the DNC hack, offering to help Trump with the election.
‘He told Bannon that Trump could still win but time was running out and that he knew how to win this but it ain’t pretty,’ Zalinsky said.
Stone is also alleged to have emailed Manafort one day earlier, saying he could ‘in his words, save Trump’s a*s.’
WHO TO LOOK OUT FOR AT THE ROGER STONE TRIAL
Left-wing radio DJ, who says he needs his therapy dog with him at all times, is ‘Person 2’ in the Roger Stone indictment
Bianca the Coton de Tulear:
Credico’s 13-year-old therapy dog; unclear if judge will allow her in court
Former top Trump aide now running an anti-impeachment podcast from his D.C. basement. He is expected to be a prosecution witness
Former deputy Trump campaign chief who turned Mueller witness. Forced to reveal secret Russian mistress when he testified against Paul Manafort, his former boss
Conspiracy theorist associate of Stone; fought off attempts by Mueller to force him into a plea deal. Previously pushed false claim Barack Obama was born in Kenya
Theodore ‘Ted’ Malloch:
Trump campaign figure whose role in contact with Assange will be explored by prosecutors; previously falsely claimed he was an Oxford professor and a Scottish laird
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton:
Will not be appearing as witnesses but prospective jurors were warned they will be mentioned during the trial
The emails are part of a trove of messages Stone denied having when quizzed by Congressional investigators including Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Stone is further accused of threatening Credico after he repeatedly asked him to come clean about the emails and Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks.
Credico met Assange when he interviewed him for his radio show in 2016 but maintains Stone had been bragging about having a different conduit for a month before that, prosecutors said.
When Credico threatened to give evidence to the House Intelligence Committee contradicting Stone, the former Nixon-aide allegedly told the DJ, who admits he has a history of alcohol problems: ‘Who cares? Nobody will believe you.’
Stones instead suggested Credico ‘should do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’ a reference to a character in the Godfather Part II who lies to a congressional committee to help the Corleone family, Zalinsky said.
The prosecutor also told jurors that when it was revealed the Mueller probe was taking an interest in Stone’s activities, Stone said “Randy Credico should tell Robert Mueller in Stone’s words that Robert Mueller should go f**k himself.”
‘He threatened his friend. He even threatened his dog. Stone’s barrage of verbal attacks on Randy Credico in the spring of 2018 worked.
‘Randy Credico got worn down by the threats and the lies,’ he said, revealing that Credico had indeed gone on to take the Fifth.
Despite the intricacies of the indictment, Zalinsky said the case against Stone boiled down to him lying repeatedly to Congress while it was undertaking a ‘critical’ investigation at an important juncture in American history. ‘Roger Stone was doing his best to stop it,’ he told jurors.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson finished jury selection earlier Wednesday, having spent more than a day whittling numbers down from a pool of 80.
Jackson had earlier refused to strike prospective jurors just because they work for the federal government or because they have opinions about Trump.
That warning did not stop Stone’s lawyers from trying to exclude the very first one, a woman who once served as a communications director for the White House Office of Management and Budget under President Barack Obama.
By mid-morning the jury was finally set with nine women, three men, and two female alternates.
Silver-haired Stone listened in silence as the judge read out a brief summary of the seven-count indictment.
The longtime Republican strategist was indicted by a grand jury as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.
The former Nixon campaign adviser – who has the disgraced former president’s face permanently tattooed on his back – has always claimed he had no advance knowledge about the hacked emails or any information on when Wikileaks would publish them.
Stone confidently assured DailyMail.com in an exclusive January 4 interview that he wouldn’t be indicted, saying: ‘They got nothing. They’ve tried hard, but I didn’t do anything illegal.’
But three weeks later he was taken into custody by rifle-wielding FBI agents in a dramatic pre-dawn raid on his Fort Lauderdale, Florida home.
Stone briefly served on Trump’s campaign but was pushed out amid infighting with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.