Trial Of Trump Adviser Roger Stone Begins On Tuesday

Nov 5, 2019
Originally published on November 5, 2019 11:53 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

For this next conversation, we need to think back to a day in January. Federal agents showed up before dawn at the Florida home of Roger Stone. He's President Trump's longtime confidant. Now, you'd expect the person at the center of an FBI raid to be quiet, but that is not Roger Stone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER STONE: To storm my house with a greater force than was used to take down bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorize my wife and my dogs, it's unconscionable.

KING: Stone was indicted as part of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. And today, he goes on trial in federal court here in Washington, D.C. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is following all of this. He's in studio. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: OK. So a ton has happened since January, so remind us about Roger Stone and what he's charged with.

LUCAS: So Stone faces seven counts in all - one count of obstruction, one count of witness tampering, five counts of lying to Congress. The allegations in the indictment are related to Stone's efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign to get in touch with WikiLeaks. Remember, WikiLeaks had thousands of hacked Democratic emails in its possession. Those emails were hacked by Russian intelligence.

According to the indictment, Stone played the role of an intermediary of sorts between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. Prosecutors say that Stone then lied to congressional investigators about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks and find out what it planned to do with the hacked emails. It has been a while, several years, in fact, but it's worth remembering that WikiLeaks, of course, released those emails during the campaign. And they became a major talking point of the 2016 campaign.

KING: Yeah. Yeah. So what was Roger Stone's role in the Trump campaign, like, officially?

LUCAS: So he briefly served as a member of the campaign as an adviser. He left but remained very much in the mix as an informal sort of outside consultant. And, of course, his relationship with Donald Trump goes back decades. The two knew each other in New York. Stone served as an adviser to Trump even back then in the 1980s. And like Trump, Stone has a very colorful history. He's a self-described dirty trickster. He famously has a tattoo of Richard Nixon's face on his back. He once worked for Nixon.

Back in the 1980s, Stone and Paul Manafort were business partners in a high-flying lobbying shop here in D.C. Stone loves the spotlight. He loves a political fight. That got him into hot water in this case, actually. The judge, Amy Berman Jackson, put Stone under a gag order earlier this year over inflammatory Instagram posts that Stone had been putting out in social media in the runup to the trial.

KING: So what do we expect from the trial?

LUCAS: Well, this trial could offer a few more nuggets about the Trump campaign's efforts to learn what WikiLeaks was up to with the Democratic emails that it had in its possession. With the Mueller report now out, though, that doesn't hold the same sort of allure for many folks in the public and the media as it once did.

The government and Stone's defense teams estimate that this trial could take around two weeks, two weeks and change. There's no word on whether Stone himself will testify. He did take the stand in a pretrial hearing. I was at that hearing. It did not go well for Stone. He got grilled by the judge and prosecutors. As for today, we'll have jury selection and potentially also get to opening statements.

KING: OK. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Ryan, thanks so much.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.