Trump associate Roger Stone found guilty of lying to Congress
Stone, 67, could face up to 20 years in prison when sentenced early next year
Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, has been found guilty of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton's 2016 election bid.
Stone was convicted, in a decision released Friday, of all seven counts in an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
Stone has denied wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated. He did not testify during the trial and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his defence.
Sentencing is set for Feb. 6.
Stone, 67, could face up to 20 years in prison.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected prosecutors' request that Stone be jailed following his conviction. She said Stone will be subject to the same conditions he faced following his arrest, including a gag order preventing him from talking to media.
Stone becomes the latest Trump associate convicted on an assortment of charges, which have included lying to Congress or the FBI, bank and tax fraud, and failing to register as a foreign agent for lobbying purposes.
The list also includes his former presidential campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's colleague Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
Many of the cases arose from investigative work undertaken by the team assembled by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was probing contacts between Russia and Trump campaign and transition teams.
Trump used Twitter to react quickly and angrily to the Stone decision, mentioning a laundry list of names he has accused of lying to officials — including Clinton and former high-ranking FBI officials James Comey and Andrew McCabe — and questioning why they haven't been prosecuted.
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's chief executive, testified that Stone had boasted about his ties to WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange, alerting them to pending new batches of damaging emails. Campaign officials saw Stone as the "access point" to WikiLeaks, said Bannon.
Scores of texts, emails detailed in court
Throughout the trial, prosecutors used Stone's own text messages and emails — some of which appeared to contradict his congressional testimony — to lay out their case he lied to Congress and threatened a witness. Stone did not testify and his lawyers called no witnesses in his defence.
Gates, who was a key co-operator in the Mueller probe, testified Stone tried to contact Jared Kushner, Trump's 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 — who scored an interview with Assange in 2016, when Assange 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 plans by WikiLeaks. But he started pressing Credico to broker a contact, and Credico testified he told Stone to work through his own intermediary.
Earlier testimony revealed 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."
The relationship between Trump and Stone stretches back decades.
The real estate tycoon was a client of the lobbying firm Black, Manafort and Stone beginning in the 1980s, and admitted in the recent documentary Get Me Roger Stone that the Republican operative has long groomed him for a run for political office.
"Roger always wanted me to run for president — I just didn't want to do it," said Trump in the documentary.
Stone was often by Trump's side as he talked up a possible 2000 bid for president as a candidate of the Reform Party.
In 2015, he was on board as Trump launched his bid for president as a Republican, but left the campaign under unclear circumstances in August that year, soon after Corey Lewandowski took over as campaign chair.
Despite that, it was revealed through the trial and the special counsel investigation that Stone was regularly in touch with Trump campaign officials through the election and into the transition.
Lewandowski appeared to gloat over Friday's verdict, tweeting: "Stone and Manafort to re-open new 'consulting' firm behind bars."
With files from CBC News