Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty trickster and Donald Trump pal, is facing up to 20 years in prison for obstruction of justice and witness tampering and 30 years on five counts of lying to Congress.
A jury returned the verdicts today (Nov. 15) after two days of deliberation and a two week trial arising out of Robert S. Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The judge has set Stone’s sentencing for Feb. 6.
Stone, 67, faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison. The judge is likely to put him behind bars for at least 20 years. But he’s not without options.
Stone could cut a deal for leniency, if he volunteers to provide information that fills in some of the blanks left by Mueller’s Trump/Russia investigation.
Stone served as an informal adviser to the campaign and was the point man on contacts with Wikileaks. The controversial website obtained emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta.
U.S. intelligence services concluded, unanimously, that Russia was behind the hacking of DNC and Podesta servers.
During the trial, prosecutors pointed to a series of telephone calls at critical times in 2016, according to published reports. The calls were between Stone, Trump and high-ranking Trump campaign figures, including Stephen Bannon, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his assistant Robert Gates.
Gates and Bannon confirmed on the witness stand that Stone was a conduit to WikiLeaks. In fact, Stone bragged that he had insider information even before the Russian hacks were known, according to testimony.
Gates testified that Trump seemed to discuss WikiLeaks with Stone based on a phone call he overheard. Of significance, Trump said in a written reply to Mueller’s office that he did not recall the discussion.
Stone could offer to shed more light on his contacts with Trump and how much Trump knew about the stolen emails, Wikileaks and a possible Russian connection. Stone could also implicate Bannon in the scheme to encourage Wikileaks to release the emails.
During the campaign, Trump routinely applauded WikiLeaks for disseminating the stolen Democratic internal communications.
On July 26, 2016, Trump publicly encouraged the Russians “to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Clinton’s server. The reference was to a Clinton email investigation while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration.
Russian-backed hackers began attempting to crack the Democratic servers immediately afterward, Mueller’s investigation found.
This past July, however, Trump had dramatically changed his tune.
“I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. according to published reports.
“It’s not my thing and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange. I’ve been seeing what’s happened with Assange,” Trump continued.
The questions were prompted by the Wikileak founder’s arrest in London a few days before after losing his right to asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Assange is expected to be extradited to the United States to face trial for aiding Army intelligence specialist Chelsea Manning’s release of secret Defense Department files in 2010.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but her sentence was shortened to seven years by President Obama on his last day in office.
The charges against Assange could include espionage and/or violation of the Official Secrets Act, which protects classified information. Assange would likely be facing life in prison if convicted.
In a bid for leniency, Assange could provide detailed information on the source of the stolen emails and the exact role Stone, Bannon, Manafort, Gates and others played in any coordination on their release.
In his defense, Stone’s lawyers portrayed him as a sort of court jester, a hapless bit player who puffed up his own importance on social media while actually having little to do with the campaign. His connection to Wikileaks was called inconsequential.
U.S. Attorney Michael Marando offered an impassioned response to jurors. “Truth matters. Truth still matters,” he said, according to The Post.
“I know we live in a world nowadays with Twitter, tweets, social media where you can find any view, any truth you want.” But in “our institutions of self-governance, to a congressional committee, in our courts of law, truth still matters.”
It’s clear the full truth about Russian involvement with the Trump campaign is yet to be known. But prosecutors have taken an important step in cracking the case, thanks to the diligent work of a jury.
Stone, who has been under a gag order, had nothing to say after the verdict. But he previously bragged that he was innocent and would beat the charges.