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Friday June 5th, 2020 2:16AM

Roger Stone guilty of witness tampering, lying to Congress

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — He was proud of his reputation as a practitioner of political dirty tricks and frequently boasted about the extent of his contacts and the depth of his insider information.

Now Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, faces a prison sentence for a collection of crimes that essentially amounts to exaggerating how much he knew, then lying and scrambling to keep those boasts from being exposed.

Stone was convicted Friday of all seven counts in a federal indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

He is the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Stone has denied wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated. He did not take the stand during the trial and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his defense.

The Stone case could be the last public gasp of the Mueller investigation, which wrapped up in March. Mueller made clear that his team never considered indicting Trump because the Justice Department prohibits the prosecution of a sitting president.

The evidence presented in the trial didn’t directly address Mueller’s conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to prove a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to tip the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. But it provided new insight into the scramble inside the Trump campaign when it was revealed in July 2016 that the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks was in possession of more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee.

Witnesses highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about the emails, which the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to WikiLeaks. Steve Bannon, who served as the campaign’s chief executive, testified during the trial that Stone had boasted about his ties to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, alerting them to pending new batches of damaging emails. Campaign officials saw Stone as the “access point” to WikiLeaks, he said.

Stone, 67, showed no visible reaction as the verdict was read aloud, count by count. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 6 and could face up to 20 years behind bars. Another former Trump campaign aide, Michael Caputo, was removed from the courtroom by security officers after he turned his back on the jury after the verdict was read.

Stone smirked at reporters as he left the courtroom, holding hands with his wife. As he walked out of the courthouse, Stone was asked if he had any comment on the verdict and replied: “none whatsoever” before he hopped into a waiting SUV with his wife.

Trump tweeted minutes after the verdict, calling the conviction “a double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country,” because his frequent nemeses, including Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey and “including even Mueller himself,” have not been convicted. “Didn’t they lie?”

After the verdict was read, prosecutors asked for Stone to be jailed as he awaits sentencing. But Jackson ruled that Stone would be released to this own recognizance but would be subject to the same blanket gag order that was imposed during the trial, banning him from discussing the case with media or posting about it on social media.

Prosecutors used Stone's own text messages and emails — many of which appeared to contradict his congressional testimony — to lay out their case.

Prosecutors alleged Stone lied to Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico — who scored an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, when he was avoiding prosecution by sheltering in the Ecuadoran embassy in London - and conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

During the 2016 campaign, Stone had mentioned in interviews and public appearances that he was in contact with Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans. But he started pressing Credico to broker a contact, and Credico testified that he told Stone to work through his own intermediary.

Earlier testimony revealed that Stone, while appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, named Credico as his intermediary to Assange and pressured Credico not to contradict him.

After Credico was contacted by Congress, he reached out to Stone, who told him he should "stonewall it" and "plead the fifth," he testified. Credico also testified during Stone’s trial that Stone repeatedly told him to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’” a reference to a character in “The Godfather: Part II” who lies before Congress.

Prosecutors said Stone had also threatened Credico's therapy dog, Bianca, saying he was “going to take that dog away from you.”

___

Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 and Ashraf Khalil at www.twitter.com/ashrafkhalil.

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