Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, is going on trial over charges related to his alleged efforts to exploit the Russian-hacked Hillary Clinton emails for political gain.
The trial in Federal Court in Washington begins Tuesday, and promises to revive the spectre of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as the impeachment inquiry against Trump proceeds in the House.
Stone’s indictment in January was an offshoot of Mueller’s investigation. Stone is accused of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a House intelligence committee probe into whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
A self-proclaimed dirty trickster with a flair for public drama, Stone has a history in Republican political circles dating back to the Nixon administration.
The indictment says Stone, who was arrested by the FBI in a raid at his Florida home, repeatedly discussed WikiLeaks in 2016 with campaign associates and lays out in detail Stone’s conversations about emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted in the weeks before Trump beat Clinton.
After WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the indictment says, a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone about additional releases and “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign.” The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone.
Stone also is accused of threatening New York radio host Randy Credico in an effort to prevent Credico from contradicting Stone’s testimony before the House intelligence committee.
Relationship with Trump since the ’80s
Stone is among several Trump associates to be charged criminally for various charges, which have included lying to Congress or the FBI, bank and tax fraud, and failing to register as a foreign agent for lobbying purposes. The list also includes his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, his presidential campaign chair, Paul Manafort and Manafort’s colleague, Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
While Trump has tried to downplay the extent of his personal relationship with some of those men, the links between Stone and Trump stretch back decades.
The real estate tycoon Trump was a client of the lobbying firm Black, Manafort and Stone beginning in the 1980s, and admitted in the documentary Get Me Roger Stone that the Republican operative has long groomed him for a run for political office. Stone was often by Trump’s side as he talked up a possible 2000 bid for president as a candidate of the Reform Party.
In 2015, Stone was on board as Trump launched his bid for president as a Republican, but left the campaign under unclear circumstances in August that year, soon after Corey Lewandowski took over as campaign chair. But as details of the indictment made clear, Stone was regularly in touch with Trump campaign officials through the election and into the transition.
Trump as recently as December 2018 defended Stone and praised his unwillingness to co-operate with authorities.