By Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The federal jury in the criminal trial of U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser Roger Stone began deliberations on Thursday into whether he lied to Congress about his efforts to learn more about when WikiLeaks would publish damaging emails about 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The 12-member jury, consisting of nine women and three men, represents a diverse cross-section of people, including an IRS civil tax attorney, an employee with AARP, and a former congressional candidate.
Stone, 67, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements in testimony during the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
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.
Prosecutors accused Stone of telling lawmakers five different lies related to the WikiLeaks website and its founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks released a series of damaging emails about Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival in the presidential election, that U.S. intelligence officials and Special Counsel Robert Mueller later concluded had been stolen by Russian hackers.
Some of those lies relate to the existence of certain texts or emails, while others pertain to Stone’s conversations with Trump campaign officials and a supposed “intermediary” with WikiLeaks in early August 2016 whom Stone identified to lawmakers as being comedian Randy Credico.
The government and Stone’s attorneys offered closing arguments on Wednesday, with the government telling the jury Stone lied to Congress in order to protect Trump’s image.
Stone’s lawyers counter that such a motive makes no sense, because by the time Stone testified to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017, Trump was already president.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bill Berkrot)