By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prosecutors delivered their closing argument in the criminal trial of U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser Roger Stone on Wednesday, saying the Republican political operative repeatedly lied to congressional investigators in order to keep the president from looking bad.
Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors, characterized two of the alleged lies told by the self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” as “a whopper.”
The defence will get its chance to present their closing argument later on Wednesday before the jury begins deliberations on Stone’s fate.
Stone, 67, a close Trump ally who famously sports a tattoo of former President Richard Nixon’s face on his back, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of obstruction, making false statements to Congress and witness tampering.
Prosecutors alleged he told lawmakers five different lies related to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, which in 2016 dumped a series of damaging emails about Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton that U.S. intelligence officials and Special Counsel Robert Mueller later concluded had been stolen by Russian hackers.
Stone is also accused of tampering with a witness, comedian Randy Credico, whom Stone told the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee was his “intermediary” to WikiLeaks – a claim that both Credico and Stone now say was untrue because Credico never passed information to Assange or made any requests.
In emails and texts, the jury was shown messages that Stone had sent Credico that included comments like “Prepare to die” and “You’re a rat. A stoolie.” He also repeatedly urged Credico to “do a Frank Pentangeli” – a reference to a character in “The Godfather Part II” who recants his congressional testimony against a mobster amid intimidation.
Witness tampering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The other counts carry a maximum sentence of five years each. If Stone is convicted, under U.S. sentencing guidelines he would likely face much less jail time as a first-time non-violent offender.
Kravis told the jury that Stone hid the existence of emails and texts, and lied about his conversations with the Trump campaign and others in order to protect Trump from looking bad.
“He knew that his emails and text messages from that time would show that he was repeatedly trying to get documents and information from WikiLeaks,” Kravis said.
“Those emails and text messages would also show he was communicating with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks’ plans every chance he got. Roger Stone knew if this information came out, it would look really bad for his longtime associate Donald Trump, so he lied to the committee,” Kravis said.
Although prosecutors said at the outset of the trial that the case was not about politics, politics have nevertheless played a major role.
The trial has featured testimony from high-profile political figures including former Trump campaign CEO and former White House adviser Steve Bannon, and former Trump campaign duty chairman Rick Gates.
Both told the jury they had spoken with Stone before and during the campaign about WikiLeaks, and they believed he had some insider information about when WikiLeaks might publish damaging emails on Clinton.
Gates also testified on Tuesday that he overheard a phone conversation in late July 2016 between Trump and Stone that appeared to be about WikiLeaks, because after the call ended, Trump said that more information would be coming out soon.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Berkrot)