WASHINGTON (CN) — “Truth still matters” was the resounding close from the Justice Department in the final moments of Trump confidant Roger Stone’s trial in Washington.
Federal prosecutors urged the jury set to begin deliberations Thursday morning to convict Stone on charges he lied to Congress about a back channel to WikiLeaks head Julian Assange during the 2016 election. The government has built its case against Stone by saying the defendant lied because “the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marando said he understood in the world today you can find your own truth on social media.
“However, in our institutions of self-governance, courts of law or committee hearings, where people under oath have to testify, truth still matters,” the prosecutor said.
The closing statement unfolded just down the street from Capitol Hill on Wednesday where televised impeachment hearings were underway, with career diplomats testifying that Trump pressured Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
Stone has pleaded not guilty to all charges and faces 20 years imprisonment if found guilty. His trial unfolded in six days with four government witnesses including top Trump insiders.
A trove of emails and texts presented as evidence show tireless efforts by Stone to funnel reports of upcoming WikiLeaks dumps to the Trump campaign in 2016.
Testimony from top campaign aide Rick Gates proved it paid off. He said on Tuesday from the witness stand that in late July 2016, just 30 seconds after Trump hung up a call with Stone, the then-candidate “indicated that more information would be coming.”
Looking to rebuff arguments from the defense that Stone committed no crime, prosecutors reminded the jury that Congress was investigating links between malign Russia actors and the Trump campaign.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis said standing before the jury, “Roger Stone is a political strategist. He knows how this is going to look.”
The prosecutor continued: “Here is Stone giving the campaign inside information on those releases over and over and over again. This is going to look terrible for Trump.”
Dismissing the claim as a “nonstarter,” Stone’s attorney, Bruce Rogow, said the defendant had no motive to lie.
“The campaign was long since over and Mr. Trump was the president of the United States,” Rogow said. “There was no sensible reason at that point to lie to cover up.”
Prosecutors told the jury that Stone’s alleged lies to Congress blocked off information key to the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation — rendering its report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election inaccurate.
Stone’s argued the committee could have pursued his client’s role further.
Prosecutors continued to point to hundreds of texts and emails as proof that Stone derailed the probe by claiming he possessed no documents relating to WikiLeaks or the Trump campaign, and pressured a key witness, Randy Credico, not to testify to Congress.
Stone told the House Intelligence Committee that Credico was his go-between with Assange. But emails presented as evidence by the government show Stone dispatched Obama-birther conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi to London in 2016 to make contact with Assange.
Kravis said the claim “flies in the face of the documents” presented as evidence that show Credico repeatedly reached out to Stone to say he was not a back channel to Assange.
Interviews and tweets also presented as evidence show Stone boasting of information on WikiLeaks dumps six times in August 2016. Under oath, Credico confirmed that a text to Stone on Sep. 15, 2016 was the first mention of Assange in conversations with the defendant.
A former FBI agent who served on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team said she found no earlier mention after examining hundreds of emails and texts between the two men, confirming that Stone’s statements that he was communicating to Assange through an intermediary predated any dropping of Assange’s name by Credico.
Arguing Stone failed to reveal that Corsi was his true source, Kravis said the defendant “does not get to pick and choose which facts are important and lie about the rest of them.”
Still, Rogow continuously pointed out to the jury that Stone willingly testified to Congress and answered questions within the scope of the investigation.
“Russia, Russia, this whole thing is about Russia. You don’t see anything in their criterion about Assange,” the defense attorney said, arguing Stone’s testimony to Congress was not about WikiLeaks.
But the government repeatedly debunked the claim, directing the jury to the House Intelligence Committee’s report on Russia.
“WikiLeaks played a key role in Russia’s malign influence campaign and served as a third party intermediary for Russian intelligence during the period leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” states the report published March 22, 2018.
The government also leaned heavily on Stone’s opening statement to Congress showing he understood the link between Russia and WikiLeaks.
“These hearings are largely based on a yet-unproven allegations that the Russian state is responsible for hacking of the DNC and John Podesta and the transfer of that information to WikiLeaks,” Stone said on Sep. 26, 2017.
Still the defense argued Stone in no way sought to mislead lawmakers. Urging the jury to listen to the three-hour audio recording of Stone’s testimony, Rogow said: “This was not the voice of a man who was trying to lie, to mislead.”
But Maranda shot down the notion that Stone walked in to testify thinking he would answer questions strictly on Russia, calling the defense “an argument that you make up after the fact to cover the tracks.”