Roger Stone trial: Witness denies 'back-channel' to WikiLeaks in bizarre testimony

Alex Woodward
Roger Stone arrives for the continuation of his trial on charges of lying to Congress, obstructing justice and witness tampering in Washington DC: REUTERS

A key witness bullied by notorious Republican operative Roger Stone has repeatedly denied being a “back-channel” for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Mr Stone, a former aide to Donald Trump.

Mr Stone lied to Congress about his role in WikiLeaks’ plans to release emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and planned to obtain damaging information on Mr Trump’s political rivals in order to protect the president because “the truth looked bad” for Mr Trump’s campaign, according to federal prosecutors.

On Thursday, prosecutors revealed a trove of Mr Stone’s expletive-filled messages threatening radio host Randy Credico to stay silent during an investigation into Russian interference in 2016 campaigning.

In a bizarre testimony that he filled with attempts at jokes and impressions, Mr Credico denied having any inside knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans.

Mr Stone was charged with witness tampering, obstructing justice and lying to congressional investigators. He faces seven felony charges, including five for making false statements to Congress.

Prosecutors say Mr Stone lied under oath while testifying to the House Intelligence Committee, where Mr Stone was asked to present records of his communication.

Mr Stone told the committee that he had “fully complied” with its request — but prosecutors found 151 messages spanning text, Facebook, Twitter, Signal and email messages between Mr Stone and Mr Credico, including 72 message sent the day of Mr Stone’s testimony to Congress.

In messages, Mr Stone told Mr Credico to “stonewall” investigators, an apparent reference to former President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, and suggested Mr Credico do an impression of The Godfather II mobster Frank Pentangeli, who commits perjury in front of a Congressional committee in the 1974 film.

Government lawyers carefully threaded a timeline of Mr Stone’s messages with his contact with investigators, to whom he said he had no relevant communications within that time, along with the time of the leaks around the 2016 campaign. But investigators found that Mr Stone had at least two phone calls with Mr Trump and more than two dozen calls with deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates.

Prosecutors say Mr Stone used Mr Credico to communicate with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Mr Credico had interviewed Mr Assange on his radio show during the 2016 election.

Mr Credico said he never discussed Mr Assange with Mr Stone until 23 August 2016, when Stone was a guest on his radio show.

Mr Assange was on the show two days later.

Mr Credico told Mr Stone that he had “kryptonite on Hillary” but Mr Credico said he had based that on Mr Assange’s public statements, not leaked material.

In his testimony, Mr Credico said he told Mr Stone to get his own “back-channel” to WikiLeaks, which Mr Stone said he already had, and not to name him as his connection.

He also said that Mr Stone had asked him to pass a message to Mr Assange, but Mr Credico testified that he never delivered.

His correct predictions to Mr Stone about an incoming WikiLeaks dump were “instinct” or he was “bluffing”, Mr Credico said.

Mr Credico had repeatedly tried to warn Mr Stone that his testimony to Congress would likely put him in legal danger.

In April 2018, Mr Credico told Mr Stone to “tell the truth... You had no made it up... take it like a man. Great hoax.”

Mr Stone replied: “Everything i know about the Wikileaks disclosure I heard from you and can prove it. You lose.”

In one message, Mr Stone called Mr Credico “a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds.”

The charges were brought against Mr Stone following an investigation by former FBI director and Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who pursued a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Mr Stone is among 34 people who were indicted in the investigation.

Mr Stone’s attorneys also had chastised Democrats involved in the investigation and wrote that Mr Stone was “forthcoming, truthful and wholly consistent in his many public statements on the matters being investigated.

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