By MICHAEL BALSAMO and ASHRAF KHALIL Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) ‚Äî Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton‚Äôs 2016 election bid.
Stone was convicted 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‚Äôs 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.
Stone, 67, showed no visible reaction as the verdict was read aloud, count by count. He‚Äôs scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 6. He could face up to 20 years.
Trump tweeted minutes after the verdict, calling the conviction ‚Äúa double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country,‚Äù because his frequent nemeses, including Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey and ‚Äúincluding even Mueller himself,‚Äù have not been convicted. ‚ÄúDidn‚Äôt they lie?‚Äù
In a trial that lasted about a week, witnesses highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Steve Bannon, who served as the campaign‚Äôs chief executive, testified during the trial 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 ‚Äúaccess point‚Äù to WikiLeaks, he said.
After the verdict was read, prosecutors asked for Stone to be jailed as he awaits sentencing, arguing that he may have violated a judge‚Äôs order that prohibits him from communicating with the media about his case. But Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected that request and said Stone will be subject to same conditions he faced following his arrest, including the gag order.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors used Stone’s own text messages and emails ‚Äî some of which appeared to contradict his congressional testimony ‚Äî to lay out their case that he lied to Congress and threatened a witness. Stone did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses in his defense.
On Tuesday, a top Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, who was a key cooperator in the Mueller probe, testified that that Stone tried to contact Jared Kushner, Trump‚Äôs son-in-law, to “debrief” him about developments on the hacked emails.
Prosecutors alleged Stone lied to Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico ‚Äî who scored an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, when he was avoiding prosecution by sheltering in the Ecuadoran embassy in London ‚Äî 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‚Äôs trial that Stone repeatedly told him to ‚Äúdo a ‚ÄòFrank Pentangeli,‚Äô‚Äù a reference to a character in ‚ÄúThe Godfather: Part II‚Äù who lies before Congress.
Prosecutors said Stone had also threatened Credico’s therapy dog, Bianca, saying he was ‚Äúgoing to take that dog away from you.‚Äù
Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 and Ashraf Khalil at www.twitter.com/ashrafkhalil.