The trial of Roger Stone commenced at a Washington DC District Court on Wednesday. The longtime political operative, friend of President Trump and occasional Spectator contributor is charged with obstructing a House Intelligence Committee proceeding, making false statements to the committee during a September 2017 hearing, and witness tampering. Always game for courtroom drama, Cockburn arrived early at the courthouse to witness the start of the trial.
After taking a seat in the back row, Cockburn noticed the courtroom was packed with journalists and interested spectators. Stone, who left jury selection on Tuesday due to food poisoning, appeared pensive and subdued as he sat with his lawyers. Among the eccentricities of the day, Stone’s family was accompanied by a minister in a white robe.
Following Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s instructions to the jury, the prosecutors delivered their opening statement, which focused on Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange. Addressing the jury, the lead prosecutor alleged that Stone lied to the Intelligence Committee when he denied having an ‘intermediary’ between himself and Mr Assange, denied having emails and records detailing his communications with an intermediary, and denied having discussions with the Trump campaign regarding WikiLeaks information.
According to the prosecutor, Stone had two intermediaries — Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi — who relayed information between himself and Assange. Drawing President Trump into the case, the lead prosecutor argued that phone calls between Stone and President Trump coincided with Stone’s efforts to gather illicit information about Hillary Clinton. The lead prosecutor claimed Stone lied to the Intelligence Committee to protect Trump, noting that ‘the truth looked bad’ for the president and his campaign.
After a lunch break, Stone’s lawyers delivered their own opening statement, with some right-wing personalities in attendance: Milo Yiannopoulos, Jack Posobiec and VICE founder Gavin McInnes.
Stone’s lawyer argued before the jury that Stone’s ‘state of mind’ was crucial to establishing his innocence. According to his lawyer, Stone volunteered to testify at the intelligence hearing and believed the scope of the committee’s investigation was Russian interference in the 2016 election, and not WikiLeaks. The committee’s focus on Russia, and not WikiLeaks, supposedly ‘colored all of his answers’ at the hearing.
Stone’s lawyer also argued that there was no ‘intermediary’ between Stone and Assange and accused Credico of ‘playing Mr Stone.’
To the charge of witness tampering, the defense lawyer said Credico and Stone were friends, and Stone’s warning to Credico to plead the Fifth Amendment to investigators was friendly banter.
With speculation that Mr Credico and Trump associate Steve Bannon will testify in the coming weeks, Cockburn is only disappointed that filming in a federal courtroom is illegal.