WASHINGTON — Trump confidant Roger Stone wanted to contact Jared Kushner in order to “debrief” the president’s son-in-law about hacked emails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, a former Trump campaign aide said Tuesday.
Rick Gates, who was Donald Trump’s deputy campaign chairman and became a key cooperator in the special counsel’s Russia probe, appeared on the witness stand in Stone’s criminal case in federal court in Washington. Stone is charged with witness tampering and lying to Congress about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks about the damaging material during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The testimony spelled out Stone’s efforts to at least be seen by the highest ranks of the Trump campaign as a go-between with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that released the damaging emails. Last week, Steve Bannon, who served as the Trump campaign’s chief executive, said the campaign saw Stone as an “access point” with WikiLeaks.
Gates received a text message from Stone on June 15, 2016, asking for Kushner’s contact information, so Stone could “debrief” Kushner on developments about the hacked emails, he said. Kushner was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign at the time.
Gates did not say if Stone received Kushner’s information. Kushner’s attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The prosecution rested their case Tuesday morning 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 prosecution’s case did not provide any dramatic new evidence about whether Trump was aware of the impending WikiLeaks releases, but emphasized that senior campaign officials were deeply engaged in trying to figure out what was happening with WikiLeaks. The president told Mueller’s prosecutors in written response to questions that he had no recollection of any particular conversations about the hacked emails.
Gates told jurors that the Trump campaign had discussed how they would handle the release of WikiLeaks’ disclosures based both on what they were learning from Stone and WikiLeaks’ public statements.
His appearance came a week after the Justice Department released documents detailing how he described the campaign’s interest in obtaining stolen emails of Democrats to the FBI.
On the stand Tuesday, Gates detailed overhearing a speakerphone conversation in July 2016 between Stone and Paul Manafort, his longtime business associate and the campaign chairman, after WkiLeaks released its first batch of emails, and Stone told Manafort that “additional information would be forthcoming.”
“Mr. Manafort thought it would be great,” Gates testified.
At the end of July, Gates said he was with Trump on a car ride from Trump Tower to LaGuardia Airport when Trump was in the midst of a conversation with Stone, whose voice Gates recognized on the other end of the line.
Defense lawyers objected to the question when Gates was asked about it, but he was allowed to testify that Trump indicated after the call concluded that “more information would be coming,” presumably related to WikiLeaks.
On cross examination, Gates acknowledged that he could not hear specifically what Stone was telling Trump on the phone call.
Gates was among the first Trump associates charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and was charged alongside Manafort in October 2017. He turned on Manafort in February 2018, pleading guilty to financial crimes arising from the pair’s international consulting work in Ukraine and to making false statements to investigators.
He has since been one of the government’s top cooperators in the Russia investigation and testified at Manafort’s 2018 trial and more recently in the case against Greg Craig, a high-powered Washington lawyer who was acquitted in September on allegations that he lied to the Justice Department about his international lobbying work.
In a sign that his cooperation is nearing an end, prosecutors and defense lawyers filed a joint notice Monday that they were ready for the judge to schedule a sentencing date in the middle of next month.