Prosecutors urge jury to convict Stone for lying to protect Trump

Prosecutors urge jury to convict Stone for lying to protect Trump
Copyright 2019 CNN

Prosecutors closed their criminal trial of Republican politico Roger Stone on Wednesday by making a forceful argument that the longtime Washington operator had lied to Congress about his engagement with WikiLeaks in 2016 to shield one person: President Donald Trump.

Prosecutor Jonathan Kravis, who delivered a closing argument for the prosecution, told the jury that if the truth about Stone’s activities on Trump’s behalf had come out in 2016, “it would look terrible.” Emails and texts showed, Kravis said, that Stone sought to learn about documents that WikiLeaks had that could help Trump and spoke to the Trump campaign about it.

And, Kravis added, if Stone had told Congress the truth about his campaign pursuits, “It would look really bad for his longtime associate Donald Trump.”

Closing arguments in Stone’s case provided an opportunity for prosecutors from the DC US Attorney’s Office to remind the jury of evidence they said proved that Stone had lied to Congress in September 2017. But the arguments also allowed a team that had worked with Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election to rehash the Trump campaign’s interest in WikiLeaks in 2016 and the damage the alleged lies had done in subsequent investigations.

Stone, a political provocateur and longtime Trump ally, is on trial in Washington for charges that include lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional proceeding. Prosecutors allege he failed to turn over documents to Congress in 2017 that showed he had sought to reach WikiLeaks the previous year, and say he lied about five facts, obscuring his attempt to use a back channel to get information that could help then-candidate Trump. Stone has pleaded not guilty to the seven charges.

The final words from prosecutors to the jury on Wednesday about Stone landed heavily in the courtroom — and could have been taken as commentary on Trump himself, Mueller’s efforts and the current state of politics.

“Truth matters. Truth still matters, OK?” prosecutor Michael Marando argued to the jury on Wednesday, his voice wavering. “In our institutions of self-governance, committee hearings, courts of law … truth still matters.”

Kravis, who also delivered a closing argument Wednesday, told the jury that Stone’s misdirections led the House Intelligence Committee to miss the truth in its own Russia investigation, for which it released a final report in March 2018.

“The committee had no idea there was this whole other guy” Stone was using to try to get to WikiLeaks, Kravis said, describing Stone’s other supposed “back channel” to WikiLeaks, Jerome Corsi. “This was something the committee was trying to figure out.

Stone’s alleged omissions deprived the Intelligence Committee from continuing its fact-finding, asking for an interview with Corsi or seeing more documents, Kravis argued.

“The committee never sees or learns what you have seen and learned over the past week at this trial,” Kravis told the jury. “The committee never saw that evidence, and so the committee’s report is not accurate.”

Stone testified to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017. The charges in this case against him focus on that testimony and on his interactions with another of his associates, Randy Credico, whom he allegedly threatened in an attempt to coerce him to lie to Congress.

Neither Stone nor any other Americans were charged with conspiracy with the Russians related to the hack of the Democrats. Yet the trial prior to Wednesday highlighted just how much the Trump campaign had welcomed the release of information that could hurt the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Several members of Mueller’s office were in the gallery to watch Stone’s trial come to its close, including two top prosecutors who now work in private practice.

In all, the prosecutors argued that the last four days of witness testimony, plus Stone’s texts, emails and phone records, showed Stone wanting to help Trump, being interested in reaching WikiLeaks about the hacked documents it had, and speaking to the Trump campaign and even Trump himself about it. Prosecutors allege Stone lied to Congress the following year out of a wish to protect Trump.

“It would look really bad for his longtime associate Donald Trump” if the truth had come out, Kravis said on Wednesday.

Stone’s defense attorney Bruce Rogow rebutted this premise, telling the jury Stone had no motive to lie.

Rogow said it was a “flawed premise” to argue that Stone was trying to protect Trump and added that the prosecutors’ had “cherry-picked” from Stone’s House testimony to build their false-statements charges. “Trump had a lot of other things on his mind by the time” Stone testified to the House in September 2017, said Rogow. “He is President of the United States.”

WikiLeaks released emails in July 2016 that the Russians had hacked from Democratic Party servers, and followed up with drops of emails stolen from the Clinton campaign’s chairman in October 2016, continuing until Election Day. Trump has attacked this premise, refusing to admit that his winning campaign could have been helped by potentially criminal interference from a foreign government.

According to his attorney, Stone didn’t think Russia was behind the hack of the Democrats, so when Stone went to speak to the House, he answered questions “with that in mind.”

“He had no information about Russian interference,” the defense attorney added on Wednesday.

“You could look at things in a malevolent way or you could look at things in a different way,” Rogow said.

Stone, who is facing prison time, did not testify in his own defense. Instead the jury heard about an hour of audio from his 2017 congressional testimony, which the defense team played in court to make its case on Tuesday.

Rogow suggested to the jury on Wednesday that its members may want to listen to all three hours of Stone’s testimony as they deliberate.

The jury’s deliberations begin Thursday morning.

CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this story.