WASHINGTON — The final testimony heard by the jury that will decide Roger Stone’s fate came from his own mouth — not on the witness stand but in a recording of his appearance before a House committee two years ago.
Asked if he had advance details on emails hacked by Russia and released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks during the 2016 election, the longtime Trump adviser replied that he did not.
“Anything to the contrary would be conjecture, supposition, projection,” he said. “There’s no evidence to that effect, because it’s not true.”
Stone, a GOP operative whose relationship with Trump dates to the 1980s, pleaded not guilty in January to a seven-count indictment charging him with witness tampering and lying in written answers and oral testimony to the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian election interference.
Closing arguments were set to start at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Stone’s trial in D.C. federal court.
Jurors may begin weighing whether Stone lied to House investigators about an effort to find dirt on Donald Trump’s then-Democratic opponent just as Congress opened public impeachment hearings over allegations the President inappropriately pressured Ukraine to investigate a potential 2020 rival.
Career U.S. diplomats are testifying to the House in nationally televised hearings about their concerns over Trump’s push this year for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, while withholding U.S. military aid.
In Stone’s trial, prosecutors left unanswered whether Stone obtained advance information from WikiLeaks during the campaign about material damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid but they told jurors that Stone stymied the House investigation into that question by his alleged lies and witness tampering.
Stone did not take the stand or offer witnesses in his defense. But jurors listened to 50 minutes of the House testimony that sparked the case.
Four days of government testimony featured Stone’s profane boasts and an alleged threat to take the dog of another congressional witness if the witness did not follow the lead of a mob character in the film “Godfather II,” who perjures himself before a Senate committee investigating organized crime.
But the trial also elicited details about Stone’s communications with the highest levels of the Trump campaign — including Trump — about efforts to learn what WikiLeaks’ plans were for emails the U.S. government said were stolen and disseminated by Russian intelligence agencies.
Some testimony also raises questions about the President’s written assertions under oath in responses to questions posed by special counsel Robert Mueller that he did not recall being aware of communications between Stone and WikiLeaks or recall any conversations about WikiLeaks between Stone and members of his campaign. The trial filled in blanks left by Mueller’s report, with former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and former campaign chief Stephen Bannon taking the stand for the government.
Gates testified Tuesday that Stone began discussing Clinton leaks with the campaign in April 2016 and that from May onward Gates understood Stone to be the campaign’s intermediary with WikiLeaks. By July 2016, Gates testified, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said he was updating Trump and others regularly and directed Gates to keep following up with Stone. After Trump ended one phone call from Stone at the end of that month, Gates testified, the future President said to Gates that “more information would be coming.”
The White House on Tuesday declined to comment on Gates’ testimony.
Bannon also testified to the Trump campaign’s eagerness to discover WikiLeaks’ plans to release damaging emails and the campaign’s belief that Stone was its”access point” to the group, based on his long-standing claims to having inside information.
Randy Credico, a talk-show host who testified that he was threatened by Stone and is the subject in the tampering accusation, said he was made into a “patsy” after passing along a question from Stone to a friend who worked with WikiLeaks. Everything he told Stone, he testified, was based on WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s public statements.
Stone’s defense lawyers said their client and people close to him boasted about information that they never had throughout the 2016 campaign.
Stone pointed to Credico as his sole WikiLeaks’ source in a letter to the House committee. He said to lawmakers there were no records of any conversations the two had on the subject, that he never discussed his conversations with his WikiLeaks intermediary with the Trump campaign, and that he never asked Credico to get information for him.
Evidence shown at trial indicated that Stone asked Credico and a writer named Jerome Corsi to get information from Assange, that he did so over email and text, and that he spoke to Trump campaign officials multiple times about future WikiLeaks releases.
Credico testified that he didn’t understand how Stone thought they could get away with lying to the House committee when Stone allegedly asked Credico not to contradict Stone’s statements. Unlike in the 1950s world of the Godfather movie, he said, where there were “no text messages,” a digital paper trial tied him to Stone.
In one of those messages, shown at trial, Credico asked Stone, “Why did you have to lie to Congress, that was so stupid.”
Stone has dismissed the Justice Department’s Russia investigation and the charges against him as politically motivated.
His attorneys argued that he did not intend to lie to the committee but saw much of what they asked for as outside the scope of Russian election interference, which he regards as unproven.
The defendant has been forbidden from commenting on his case in public or from using major social media platforms under a gag order by the court, after Stone ignored warnings from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to refrain from comments that might jeopardize his right to a fair trial. Jackson, the trial judge, imposed the order after incidents including a posting on his Instagram account that showed a photograph of the judge’s face next to what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun scope.