- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2019

Roger Stone’s criminal trial that kicks off Tuesday threatens to rekindle the Russia collusion scandal, including stoking questions about whether President Trump lied to former special counsel Robert Mueller.

A longtime Trump confidant and adviser to his 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Stone is accused of lying to Congress about his efforts to learn more about WikiLeaks releasing emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign that were hacked by Russia.

Mr. Stone denied advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks’ releases.

The trial will be closely watched by House Democrats as their impeachment inquiry pushes forward on another front against Mr. Trump, with the courtroom drama promising to focus public attention again on allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russia that never panned out.

Mr. Trump is now contending with an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats into accusations he tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating whether former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a top contender for the 2020 presidential nomination, was involved in corruption in that country.



Though Congress and the news media have moved on from the Russia collusion allegations, a host of questions remain unanswered.

Mr. Mueller’s voluminous report from his Russia probe includes several key sections that were blacked out citing “harm to ongoing matters.” Some of those sections appear to involve Mr. Stone, and that material could be revealed in the trial.

“My sense is that things will come out that will add to the Democratic case for impeachment,” said Mark Graber, who teaches government and politics at the University of Maryland.

One of the biggest mysteries of the Mueller investigation could be solved during the trial. The Mueller report describes a car ride to LaGuardia Airport in which Mr. Trump spoke with an unknown caller about WikiLeaks possibly releasing Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

After the call ended, Mr. Trump told Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates “more releases of damaging information would be coming.”

Mr. Trump in written responses to the special counsel’s investigators denied any knowledge of WikiLeaks’ releases. A tantalizing possibility for Mr. Trump’s foes would be indications during the Stone trial that the president committed perjury in answering the Mueller team, which would be an impeachable offense.

Federal prosecutors likely will bring up the phone call to Mr. Gates, who is scheduled to testify as a cooperating witness. Another possible government witness is former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The president and his allies likely will blunt any possible revelations of wrongdoing by pointing to the Mueller report itself. In his report, Mr. Mueller concluded no Trump campaign officials conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election.

“The Democrats are trying to keep the attention and focus on Ukraine and develop a narrative there and meanwhile in another part of town there is the Stone show going on,” said Ross Garber, who teaches political investigations and impeachment at Tulane Law School. “That is going to potentially attract attention away from what many of the president’s detractors want to do by focusing on Ukraine.

Analysts say they don’t expect any revelations during the Stone trial to harm the president politically, even if the trial bolsters Democrats’ case for impeachment.

“We’ve reached the point of diminishing returns on Trump,” Mr. Garber said. “For those who believe and have believed for years he is unfit for office, there is going to be more evidence. But if you haven’t hopped about that train, you aren’t going to hop on now.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide