By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A jury was selected on Wednesday in the trial of President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone in a criminal case stemming from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe that detailed Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Stone, who left the proceedings early on Tuesday’s opening day of jury selection looking ill and complaining of food poisoning, arrived at the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. (1400 GMT). Asked by a Reuters reporter if he was feeling better, Stone nodded in the affirmative.
The 67-year-old veteran Republican political operative – a self-described “dirty trickster” and “agent provocateur” – has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. Stone has been a friend and ally of Trump for some 40 years.
Opening statements by prosecutors and Stone’s lawyers in the trial could come as soon as Wednesday afternoon, with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson presiding. A jury of 12 people and two alternates was picked.
Many of the prospective jurors who were questioned by the judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers during the selection process on Tuesday expressed dislike for Trump – not surprising given that more than 90 percent of voters in the U.S. capital cast their ballots for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The judge said negative views on the Republican president or working for the government could not be used to justify striking prospective jurors from serving in the trial unless they felt those views might taint their ability to review the evidence fairly and impartially.
The charges against Stone stem from Mueller’s investigation, although the case is now being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Mueller wrapped up his 22-month investigation in March.
Mueller documented Russian efforts to boost Trump’s candidacy and led to criminal charges against several Trump advisers and campaign aides. Stone and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign adviser and a former business partner of Stone, were the only two from this group not to plead guilty.
Manafort was convicted by a Virginia jury last year and is currently incarcerated after being sentenced to 7-1/2 years in prison.
Stone is accused of lying to the Intelligence Committee about the Trump campaign’s efforts to obtain emails hacked by Russia that were published by the Wikileaks website to harm Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The Democratic-led panel is now spearheading the House impeachment inquiry against Trump over his request that Ukraine investigate a Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Editing by Will Dunham)