By Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Testimony in the colorful trial of Roger Stone — featuring talk of dognapping and Godfather references — wrapped up Tuesday with a top Trump campaign official telling jurors that Stone tried to contact Jared Kushner to “debrief” him about hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
While Stone’s trial in Washington didn’t produce the bombshells about President Donald Trump that some expected, the testimony over the last week reinforced that those at the highest ranks of the Trump campaign were eager to gather information about WikiLeaks’ plan to release the damaging emails and saw Stone — who had repeatedly inferred he had inside information about those plans — as the best person to gather that intelligence.
Stone, a longtime Trump friend and ally, is charged with witness tampering and lying to Congress about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks about the damaging material during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Stone, who has denied wrongdoing, did not testify. His attorneys rested after playing a tape of his congressional testimony. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors used Stone’s own text messages and emails — some of which appeared to contradict his congressional testimony — to lay out their case that he lied to Congress and threatened a witness.
Rick Gates, who was Trump’s deputy campaign chairman and became a key cooperator in the special counsel’s Russia probe, told jurors he received a text message from Stone on June 15, 2016, asking for Kushner’s contact information. He said Stone wanted to “debrief” Kushner on developments about the hacked emails. Kushner was a senior campaign adviser at the time.
Gates did not say if Stone received Kushner’s information. Kushner’s attorney did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The prosecution rested its case after recalling a former FBI agent who had previously testified about a series of phone calls between Stone and then-candidate Trump — including three calls on July 14, 2016 — the day that a massive hack of the Democratic National Committee’s servers was reported.
The president told special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors in written responses to questions that he had no recollection of any particular conversations about the hacked emails.
Stone, whose history in Republican political circles dates back to the Nixon era, was charged as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Stone has consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated and the judge overseeing his case had to issue a gag order in February after he posted a photo on Instagram of the judge with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun.
His trial has become somewhat of a spectacle in Washington — even as the world’s eyes were drawn to the House impeachment inquiry. Before the trial even began, a spectator collapsed during jury selection and Stone later fell ill and needed to leave early because of food poisoning .
On another day, as Stone dined in the courthouse cafeteria with right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, protesters turned a large inflatable rat that looked like Trump toward the cafeteria windows.
Jurors also heard from Randy Credico, a New York radio talk show host and comedian who scored an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, when he was avoiding prosecution by sheltering in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
During the 2016 campaign, Stone had mentioned in interviews and public appearances that he was in contact with Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans. But he started pressing Credico to broker a contact, and Credico testified that he told Stone to work through his own intermediary.