WASHINGTON – The prosecution in the trialof Roger Stone on Wednesday painted President Donald Trump’slongtime adviser as a liar in a criminal case stemming fromformer special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe that detailedRussian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
After a 12-member jury was selected, opening statementsbegan in the trial in federal court in Washington,with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jacksonpresiding.
Stone, 67, a veteran Republican political operative, self-described “dirty trickster” and “agent provocateur,” haspleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing justice, witnesstampering and lying to the House Intelligence Committee.
Stone has been a friend and ally of Trump for 40 years.
“Now you’ll ask: Why didn’t Roger Stone just tell thetruth?” prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky asked the jurors. “Theevidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to theHouse Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad.”
“The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign, and the truthlooked bad for Donald Trump,” Zelinsky added.
Zelinsky accused Stone of five categories of lies. Zelinskyalso told the jurors the case was not about politics nor was itabout who hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016. U.S.intelligence agencies and Mueller concluded the hacking was doneby Russia.
The defenses opening statement was to follow.
Stone is accused of lying to the Intelligence Committeeabout the Trump campaign’s efforts to obtain emails hacked byRussia that were published by the WikiLeaks website to harmDemocrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. TheDemocrat-led panel is now spearheading the House impeachmentinquiry against Trump over his request that Ukraine investigatea Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
“Stone regularly updated people on the Trump campaign at thesenior levels about whatever information he thought he had aboutWikiLeaks,” Zelinsky said, adding that Stone “was going to thevery top of the Trump campaign the CEO of the Trump campaign a man named Steve Bannon.”
The charges against Stone stem from Mueller’s investigation,although the case is now being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia. Mueller wrapped up his22-month investigation in March.
Mueller documented Russian efforts to boost Trump’scandidacy, and his probeled to criminal charges against several Trumpadvisers and campaign aides. Stone and Paul Manafort, Trump’sformer campaign manager and a former business partner of Stone,were the only two from this group not to plead guilty.
Manafort was convicted by a Virginia jury last year and iscurrently incarcerated after being sentenced to 7 years inprison.
Many of the prospective jurors who were questioned by thejudge, prosecutors and defense lawyers during the selectionprocess on Tuesday expressed dislike for Trump not surprisinggiven that more than 90 percent of voters in the U.S. capitalcast their ballots for Clinton in 2016.
The judge said negative views on the Republican president orworking for the government could not be used to justify strikingprospective jurors from serving in the trial unless they feltthose views might taint their ability to review the evidencefairly and impartially.
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