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Was convicted Roger Stone using trial to appeal to Trump?

Roger Stone, former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, has been found guilty on seven felony counts, including obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone’s trial revealed new details about the Trump campaign’s interest in emails hacked by Russia -- and the verdict drew Trump's ire. Amna Nawaz talks to The Washington Post’s Spencer Hsu.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In other news today, Roger Stone, the former aide and longtime confidant of President Trump, today was found guilty in a federal court on seven felony counts, among them, obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

    Stone was also convicted of lying to investigators and tampering with a witness. Prosecutors said that stone committed these crimes to protect the president.

    Amna Nawaz has the details.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    In fact, the panel that Stone lied to is the same congressional committee that is conducting the impeachment hearings.

    Now, Stone's indictment was the last, brought by former special counsel Robert Mueller. And the trial revealed new details about the Trump campaign's interest in e-mails hacked by Russia and published by WikiLeaks.

    Stone is the latest in a string of former Trump aides and officials who have now been convicted. They include Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Flynn.

    Moments after the verdict, the president tweeted — quote — "So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come."

    The president then referenced Hillary Clinton, James Comey and a list of others, accusing them of lying.

    Spencer Hsu of The Washington Post covered the trial. And he joins me now.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour."

  • Spencer Hsu:

    Thanks very much.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Stone is found guilty of obstructing that congressional investigation that we listed there.

    In what ways did prosecutors say he obstructed that investigation? What did he do?

  • Spencer Hsu:

    Well, jurors found that he lied in five different ways, denying that he had a back channel or an intermediary with WikiLeaks, with whom he sought information, that he didn't have any records of any communications with those — any such individuals.

    He falsely named one person as a source of information, and then he proceeded to threaten that witness and direct him to lie or to mislead or not cooperate with the committee. And he also denied communicating with the Trump campaign about this intermediary or his efforts.

    And then, finally, he denied any communications with third parties about his — about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the man who is holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, who was tweeting and making comments about the e-mails.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That one witness that he tried to block the testimony of, who was that? Why is he important to this entire story? And in what ways was Stone trying to keep him from testifying?

  • Spencer Hsu:

    Right.

    Randy Credico was a colorful figure, the key witness. He took the stand for the government. He is a former comedian and a New York City radio talk show host. His distinction in the 2016 campaign was he scored an August 25 interview with Julian Assange from the embassy.

    It emerged that, in communications — well, and also that, when Stone was asked and pressed by the committee, well, you made all these public statements in August of 2016 predicting what WikiLeaks was going to do, predicting the release of damaging Democratic e-mails by Hillary Clinton and her campaign. You said you had an intermediary. Who was it?

    The president named Credico. Turned out, evidence showed that Credico wasn't in touch with anyone or seeking information until weeks after that time that Stone named.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You said the president named Credico.

    You mean Stone named Credico.

  • Spencer Hsu:

    Excuse me. Stone.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I just want to make that very clear. And, of course, we now know the role that WikiLeaks played here in all of this.

    In part of the trial, I do want to also mention that they heard from two former Trump campaign officials as well, Steve Bannon among them, who was a former adviser, and Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign chair.

    In part of Gates' testimony, he talks about this phone call. What was that phone call? Why was it key to what prosecutors were alleging?

  • Spencer Hsu:

    So Stone had denied speaking to the campaign about trying to get the WikiLeaks e-mails.

    President Trump, in his own answers to the Mueller commission, said he spoke with Stone several times in the course the election campaign season, but that he didn't recall any specifics, didn't recall speaking to him about WikiLeaks, and didn't recall knowing about any communications that Stone had with this campaign.

    What Gates said and other evidence showed was that there had been discussions since April about — that Stone had had with the top levels of the campaign, chairman Paul Manafort, his deputy, Rick Gates, the later on chief executive Steve Bannon, and with the candidate himself, that, on July 31, right in the middle of the period of the Democratic National Committee — excuse me — the Democratic National Convention, and the time when the e-mails were coming out, and WikiLeaks was tweeting about this, there was this call between Stone and Trump that Gates heard while they were traveling from Trump Tower to La Guardia Airport.

    After the call hung up, Trump said, there's going to be more information forthcoming.

    How dispositive is that? It was known that Assange was — WikiLeaks were saying more information was coming. But the issue is that Stone denied to the committee knowing about that.

    Stone's defense has pointed out, there's nothing illegal about opposition research. He wasn't charged with that. The point of prosecutors was, you have to tell the truth to a committee investigating for foreign interference efforts in an American election when they're investigating that.

    And the belief was that the Russians hacked and leaked to WikiLeaks.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And what Gates has now said calls into question some of the written answers that the president himself gave to the special counsel about the details of those phone calls.

    One last thing before I let you go. You were in the courtroom. It is fair to say that Roger Stone is a very colorful character. He once said that it's better to be infamous than not famous at all.

    There was a lot of sort of circus to this trial itself. What was it like over the course of this trial? And, also, a lot of people are asking, what's the possibility that the president now just pardons Roger Stone?

  • Spencer Hsu:

    You know, there had been some question of why this case have gone to trial. It was a very strong paper records case. Prosecutors had said that's the beauty of this thing so much was, papers don't lie. And they had 1,500 texts and e-mail messages that he had — that Stone had claimed didn't exist.

    And the thought had been that Stone was really not just appealing to a jury of 12, but maybe an audience of one, that he had used this case to attack the Mueller prosecution and accuse it of being a witch-hunt.

    And you saw that — I don't know that Stone now can come to a jury and say that he accepts responsibility now that the president has come out and said that it's a double standard, maybe he shouldn't have been prosecuted.

    We will see what approach he takes facing potentially a prison term.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We will wait to see, indeed.

    Spencer Hsu of The Washington Post, thank you so much for being here.

  • Spencer Hsu:

    Thanks for having me.

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