Roger J. Stone, Jr., a longtime friend of President Trump and former aide, has been found guilty on all counts of lying to Congress and obstructing an investigation into Russia to protect Trump by a federal jury on Friday. The panel of nine women and three men were in deliberation for less than two days before reaching their verdict and found Stone guilty on all seven counts that came from his testimony in September 2017 to a House Intelligence Committee that was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The New York Times reports that Stone was charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee, attempting to block a potential witness’s testimony, and concealing evidence from investigators. The prosecutors claimed that Stone, who appropriately has a tattoo of disgraced former President Richard Nixon, tried to impede the committee’s investigation because the truth looked bad and could have hurt Trump and his campaign. Stone, a well-known figure in GOP politics, is now facing the possibility of a prison sentence, and his trial has brought Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election back into the limelight.
Over the past week, the government has built its case against Stone with testimony from a friend of his and two former Trump campaign officials, supported by hundreds of pieces of evidence that exposed Stone’s dislike for congressional and criminal investigators. The evidence revealed that leading up to the 2016 election, Stone sought to obtain the emails stolen by Russia from Democratic computers and given to WikiLeaks, which were then released in intervals to damage Trump’s opponent in the election (and the candidate the American people voted for), Hillary Clinton. According to The New York Times, Jonathan Kravis, a lead prosecutor, said that Stone had briefed Trump’s campaign about anything he had picked up about WikiLeaks’ plans “every chance he got”. Stone denied he ever did so.
Stone joins a long line of Trump officials and advisors who were either convicted or have pleaded guilty in connection to Mueller’s Russian probe, a line with too many people to list completely here but includes Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. The trial unfolded mere blocks from the impeachment hearing room on Capitol Hill, and the House Intelligence Panel leading the impeachment inquiry is the very same that Stone was accused of lying to.
As the verdicts were being read, Stone had no audible reaction, instead standing expressionless with his hands in his pockets. Likewise, his wife simply looked straight ahead without expression. However, Michael Caputo, a friend of Stone’s and a former Trump campaign advisor, behaved as a toddler would when they don’t get what they want, turned his back on the jurors as they walked out, and was thrown out of the courtroom for that. Stone’s supporters wasted no time following the trial to push the president for a pardon, and the president himself took to Twitter to vent his frustration.
“So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come,” Trump tweeted. “Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie?….” Trump continued, “….A double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?”
Following the verdict, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to take Stone into custody immediately, arguing that he had violated the gag order she placed on Stone by making comments in a broadcast the previous day on Infowars, the far-right conspiracy theory website/overpriced supplement store run by Alex Jones. Judge Jackson rejected the motion, saying that Stone had complied with her orders in recent months, and that the proof of a new infraction was not entirely clear. Stone was allowed to return home to Florida with the gag order still in place, and his sentencing is set for February 6.
Of all the charges brought against Stone, the most serious charge is witness tampering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the other charges carry a maximum of five years each. While Stone is a first-time offender and is likely to get a lighter sentence, his fate now lies in the hands of Judge Jackson, and Stone isn’t exactly on her good side. Earlier this year, Stone had posted a photo of the judge with an image of a cross-hairs next to her head, and was subsequently banned from using social media.
Trump, his administration, and his associates are continuing their deep downward spiral that began before Trump even took office. With the impeachment inquiry in full swing, Stone’s conviction spells even more bad news for Trump as even he continues to constantly spout lies. Of the guilty verdict, Mimi Rocah, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said, “This is a bigger message about truth. The public has been seeing people lying so brazenly for so long and the jury saying facts still matter is a big deal.”