Rocky start to jury selection in longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone's trial

Clay Curtis
November 8, 2019

Prosecutors pulled back the curtain on Roger Stone's private dealings with President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign on Wednesday, portraying the president's longtime adviser as a liar who misled Congress about his outreach efforts to the WikiLeaks website to protect Trump from looking bad.

The trial in Federal Court in Washington begins Tuesday, and promises to revive the spectre of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as the impeachment inquiry against Trump proceeds in the House. The probe documented Russian efforts to boost Trump's candidacy and led to criminal charges against several Trump advisers and campaign aides. Stone and Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign adviser and a former business partner of Stone, were the only two from this group not to plead guilty. Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, was convicted by a Virginia jury past year and is now in a federal prison. Stone was charged with giving false statements, obstruction and witness tampering and could face prison time if convicted. That committee is now spearheading the impeachment inquiry.

Stone, wearing a gray suit and sunglasses, earlier arrived at the courthouse in the US capital to a mixture of jeers and cheers. Stone has said he's done nothing wrong.

In 2015, Stone was on board as Trump launched his bid for president as a Republican, but left the campaign under unclear circumstances in August that year, soon after Corey Lewandowski took over as campaign chair.

"Mr. Stone is not feeling well", defense attorney Robert Buschel told Judge Amy Berman Jackson at the bench shortly after the potential jurors were sworn in, according to transcripts of sidebar discussions with the judge.

Credico is due to testify later in the trial, which could run at least two weeks.

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Still, Stone's lawyers quickly moved to strike from serving as a juror a woman who said she previously worked in former President Barack Obama's administration and her husband worked at the Justice Department. Jackson denied a request from Stone's lawyers to excuse her. He is accused of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a House Intelligence Committee probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Federation to tip the 2016 election.

The indictment claims Stone, who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a raid at his Florida property, repeatedly reviewed WikiLeaks in 2016 with marketing campaign associates and lays out in detail Stone's conversations about e-mail stolen from Clinton marketing campaign chairman John Podesta and posted in the months right before Trump defeat Clinton. The election was in November 2016.

Those four were mentioned in a questionnaire sent to prospective jurors listing people who could be called as witnesses or discussed during the trial.

Stone and some of his associates may have been links in a chain that connected Trump in New York City with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, who at the time had confined himself in the Ecuadorian Embassy there.

Also mentioned was Wiki-Leaks founder Julian Assange, though he is not expected to appear as he is in London fighting extradition to the United States on charges of conspiring to hack government computers and violating espionage laws.

Court proceedings were also interrupted when a man sitting in the back of the courtroom appeared to experience a seizure, and was escorted out by paramedics. The man later limped out of the courtroom before being placed on a stretcher and wheeled to an ambulance.

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