Longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone lied to a congressional committee in 2017 because the “the truth looked bad” for President Trump, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday as the Trump confidant’s criminal trial started Wednesday.
In opening arguments, prosecutors said Mr. Stone repeatedly lied to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his efforts during the 2016 presidential election to connect with WikiLeaks, which was publishing emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“The evidence, in this case, will show that Roger Stone lied to the House intelligence committee because the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky told the jury.
He wouldn’t be the first of Mr. Trump’s political allies to suffer because of the relationship.
Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is serving a federal sentence for tax and financial fraud; longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail for campaign finance violations, tax evasion and other crimes; former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI; and ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted lying to investigators.
Prosecutors stopped short of accusing the president of a crime but said he was aware of Mr. Stone’s attempts to learn more about WikiLeaks’ release of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.
The government presented evidence of phone calls between then-candidate Trump and Mr. Stone. Mr. Zelinsky admitted the content of the calls isn’t known, but they occurred around the same time as WikiLeaks’ email releases.
The trial could reveal some unpleasant details about the Trump campaign and its desire to win in 2016.
At least one of those officials, former campaign Chief Executive Steve Bannon is expected to testify, according to Mr. Zelinsky.
Mr. Stone is charged with lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. His case is among the last stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“We don’t know the content, they spoke for about 10 minutes on then-candidate Trump’s personal line,” Mr. Zelinsky said, noting the call occurred two days after WikiLeaks announced it would release the hacked emails.
Defense attorney Bruce Rogow said Mr. Stone did not intend to lie but had prepared for questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Rogow said the intelligence committee did not tell his client he would be grilled about WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
“His lawyers wrote to the committee volunteering to appear,” Mr. Rogow said. “That’s not the way people go to a committee meeting, certainly not if they are intending to lie.”
Explaining Mr. Stone’s 2016 media pronouncements about the forthcoming release of damaging Democratic emails, Mr. Rogow painted his client as a braggart pretending he had inside information.
“He did brag about his ability to find out what was going on, but he had no intermediary,” Mr. Rogow said. “He found out about everything in the public domain.”
The government says Mr. Stone saw the WikiLeaks documents as a path to victory in the election. In August 2016, Mr. Stone wrote to Mr. Bannon and Manafort, then the campaign chairman, saying he had an idea “to save” Mr. Trump, But “it ain’t pretty.”
Mr. Corsi responded that the friend uncovered that WikiLeaks planned two more dumps and at least one “would be very damaging,” Mr. Zelinsky told jurors.
But Mr. Rogow argued that his client and Mr. Credico are lifelong friends who often exchange crude, profane texts and emails. He said some of the communications were blown out of proportion by the government.
“All of this doesn’t amount to the kind of witness tampering the government argues occurred,” he said.
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