- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Roger Stone was so worried about protecting the Trump campaign that he lied to a congressional committee investigating Russian election meddling, government lawyers said Wednesday as they wrapped up their prosecution of the longtime GOP operative.

A jury heard closing arguments in the week-long trial in which Mr. Stone faces perjury, witness tampering and obstruction charges. Jurors will receive their instructions and begin deliberations Thursday.

Prosecutors say Mr. Stone in 2017 tried to conceal from lawmakers his efforts to obtain advance information from WikiLeaks about emails damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Stone, an unofficial adviser and friend of President Trump’s for 30 years, feared disclosing his use of an intermediary in an effort to connect with WikiLeaks, prosecutors said.

“Roger Stone is a political strategist. He knows how this is going to look. A committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is looking into WikiLeaks’ releases and here is Stone giving the campaign inside information on those releases over and over again,” said prosecutor Jonathan Kravis.

“This is going to look terrible for Trump,” Mr. Kravis continued.

During a roughly one-hour closing argument, Mr. Kravis said when Mr. Stone was confronted with his lies, he told another “whopper.”

The government said Mr. Stone told lawmakers that talk-show host Randy Credico was his source for information on WikiLeaks. But it was another associate, Jerome Corsi, not Mr. Credico, who served as a WikiLeaks intermediary, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Kravis didn’t shy away from the flaws of Mr. Credico, a star witness for the prosecution who is a stand-up comedian with a history of alcoholism. It was clear why Mr. Credico was picked to be the “patsy,” Mr. Kravis told the courtroom.

“He can be a little hard to take seriously,” Mr. Kravis said of the witness. “When he was on the stand he talked about Dick Tracy and characters in movies that I have never even heard of.

“That is exactly why Roger Stone picked Randy Credico, because he knew when the time came he would be able to bend Randy Credico until he broke.”

Prosecutors showed jurors a paper trail of threats Mr. Stone sent to Mr. Credico allegedly pressuring him to lie to Congress and stonewall the investigation.

Defense attorney Bruce Rogow said the notion that Mr. Stone would lie to Congress is “absurd” and “absolutely flawed.”

“He was testifying in September 2017. The Trump campaign was long since over. What was the need to protect the campaign or Mr. Trump? None actually,” Mr. Rogow said.

Mr. Stone’s attorney said there was nothing illegal about his effort to connect with WikiLeaks for the Trump campaign.

“There is no reason for Mr. Stone to lie about the campaign when the campaign was doing nothing wrong by being interested in this research,” Mr. Rogow said.

Defense lawyers aimed squarely at Mr. Credico, painting him as the one who “played” Mr. Stone, not the other way around. Mr. Rogow said the two men have a long history of manipulating one another.

“These two guys tampered with each other for 20 years,” he said.

Testimony from Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates raised questions about whether Mr. Trump lied in his written responses to former special counsel Robert Mueller. In his written answers, Mr. Trump said he did not recall being aware of any communications about WikiLeaks between Mr. Stone and members of the campaign.

But Mr. Gates recalled a July 2016 phone call between the candidate and Mr. Stone. Although Mr. Gates said he could not hear what Mr. Stone said, at the end of the call then-candidate Trump said, “more information would be coming.”

During closing arguments, Mr. Rogow said that testimony was too ambiguous to say with certainty the two men discussed WikiLeaks.

“How can you build a case on something that nobody knows what was said,” he said. “Nobody knows what was said.”

The case now rests in the hands of nine men and three women, chosen last week. During the past week, jurors heard from four government witnesses, including Trump campaign Chief Executive Officer Steve Bannon, Mr. Gates, former FBI agent Michelle Taylor and Mr. Credico.

Mr. Stone chose not to take the stand in his defense. Instead, his attorneys played a crackling, barely audible recording of his congressional testimony.

The defense said the recording proves that Mr. Stone was not prepared to answer questions about WikiLeaks because he believed lawmakers were going to ask him only about Russian election interference.

If convicted, Mr. Stone could face up to 20 years in prison.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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