Skip to main content

Roger Stone is found guilty in trial that revived Trump-Russia saga

FILE — Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, exits the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington, Feb. 21, 2019. Stone was found guilty on Friday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times)
November 15, 2019 12:27 pm Updated: November 15, 2019 12:27 pm

WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a former aide and longtime friend of President Donald Trump, was found guilty on Friday of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Trump.

Stone, 67, was charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. In all, he faced seven felony charges and was found guilty on all counts.

The government built its case over the past week with testimony from a friend of Stone and two former Trump campaign officials, buttressed by hundreds of exhibits that exposed Stone’s disdain for congressional and criminal investigators. Confronted with his lies under oath by one associate, prosecutors said, Stone wrote back: “No one cares.” They asked the jurors to deliver a verdict proving him wrong.

The evidence showed that in the months leading up to the 2016 election, Stone strove to obtain emails that Russia had stolen from Democratic computers and funneled to WikiLeaks, which released them at strategic moments timed to damage Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent. Stone briefed the Trump campaign about whatever he had picked up about WikiLeaks’ plans “every chance he got,” Jonathan Kravis, a lead prosecutor, said.

The trial revived the saga of Russia’s efforts to bolster Trump’s chances of winning the White House at the same time that House impeachment investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine, a foreign ally, for help with his 2020 election.

Unfolding in a courtroom just blocks from the impeachment hearing room on Capitol Hill, the case resurrected a narrative that dogged Trump’s presidency until Mueller’s two-year investigation ended last spring. Stone was accused of lying to the same House intelligence panel that is now leading the impeachment inquiry.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for seven hours over two days before finding Stone, a 40-year friend of Trump and well-known political provocateur, guilty.

In one of the trial’s most revealing moments, Rick Gates, Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, recounted a July 31, 2016, phone call between Stone and Trump, just days after WikiLeaks had released a trove of emails embarrassing the Clinton campaign. As soon as he hung up with Stone, Gates testified, Trump declared that “more information” was coming, an apparent reference to future releases from WikiLeaks that would rattle his political rival.

Gates’ testimony called into question Trump’s answers to queries from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who conducted a criminal inquiry into Russia’s election interference. Trump, who agreed to respond to questions only in writing rather than sit for an interview, said he could not recall the specifics of any of 21 conversations he had with Stone in the six months before the election. Stone told House investigators that he never discussed his conversations with an intermediary to WikiLeaks with anyone involved in the Trump campaign.

Stone, 67, joins a notable list of former Trump aides convicted of lying to federal authorities. It includes Gates; Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser; Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, and George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide.

Although the most serious charge against Stone carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, his sentence will almost certainly be much lighter. Working against him could be his multiple run-ins earlier this year with Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the case and will preside over any sentencing. After a series of infractions, including posting a photo of the judge with an image of cross-hairs next to her head on Instagram in February, she banned him from social media.

New York State should now indict Stone and set trial. No pardon escape hatch for this vicious traitor and his trapped Rat Trump. Spill or chill Rodger that.