The texts and emails came cascading out on Thursday. A visceral insult, a chilling threat, a garbled reference to the mafia. And expletives, so many expletives.
Federal prosecutors unveiled a barrage of evidence against longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone on Thursday as they tried to show that Stone tried to bully an associate to stay silent when a House committee investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference came calling.
It all made for riveting courtroom drama at Stone’s trial for obstruction of Congress, lying and witness tampering as jurors heard all the juicy details from a variety of crude communications between Stone and liberal talk show host Randy Credico — the witness Stone is charged with threatening and trying to silence.
While the crass messages jolted the normally staid courtroom setting, they also illustrated the degree to which Stone was in touch with Trump’s campaign during the peak of the 2016 election, when the GOP provocateur was bragging and winking about WikiLeaks’ plans to dump emails that would roil Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Yet it was Stone’s decades-long flair for the dramatic that won the day on Thursday.
The court heard exchanges packed with foul language and references to a famous scene in the “The Godfather Part II” in which a potential witness recants earlier testimony before Congress.
“When I wipe my ass what’s on the toilet paper is worth more than you are. You’re an alcoholic drug addicted out of work piece of shit,” Stone wrote Credico in one message from early April 2018.
In another exchange, Credico warned Stone that he could be prosecuted for perjury for giving incorrect testimony to lawmakers about his communications with WikiLeaks, the publishing outfit that released hacked emails that rocked Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Stone replied with several threats directed at Credico and his omnipresent therapy dog, Bianca.
“I’m going to take that dog away from you. Not a fucking thing you can do about it either because you are a weak piece of shit,” he wrote in one. And in another, Stone said, “Let’s get it on. Prepare to die cocksucker.”
Jurors had been warned what they were in for.
On Wednesday, Stone’s defense attorney explained that the defendant had a long, “strange relationship” with Credico that often included communications peppered with “odious” language. Still, they heard plenty more over the course of Thursday’s proceedings from a key FBI case agent who handled the Stone file.
That includes the headline-grabbing allusions to the Godfather movie.
The two men swapped barbed texts referencing the film as Credico fretted over how to respond to a subpoena he’d gotten from the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017. The subpoena came after Stone told lawmakers in a follow-up letter after his own in-person deposition in September that Credico was his intermediary to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Rather than appear before the House panel, Stone urged Credico to avoid testifying and pressed him to assert his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
“This whole thing will be worthless unless you find a place to do your Frank Cannon July 10 imitation ‘sure sure Roger Stone this Roger Stone that,’” Stone wrote to Credico. About seventeen seconds later, Stone texted again “Frank Pantsgele.”
The now-former FBI agent testifying, Michelle Taylor, explained to jurors that “Frank Cannon July 10” and “Frank Pantsgele” were intended as references to the “Godfather II” character Frank Pentangeli, who suffers a sudden bout of amnesia before Congress when they press him about the Corleone family’s mob activity.
“You’ve seen it recently?” asked Jonathan Kravis, an assistant U.S. attorney from D.C., who is part of the prosecution team.
“Yes,” Taylor replied, breaking into a smile.
Jurors also heard a comparison of Stone’s crimes to Watergate as Taylor read another text message from Stone urging Credico not to speak to lawmakers.
“Stonewall it plead the fifth anything to save the plan,” Stone wrote in November 2017.
Taylor said Stone — famous for his back tattoo of Richard Nixon — was referring to directions the 37th president gave to his aides as investigators closed in.
“It’s a paraphrase of something President Nixon said to John Mitchell and John Dean during Watergate,” explained Taylor, who left the FBI for a private sector job a few months ago.
The current president was also featured again on Thursday, one day after prosecutors revealed that Trump and Stone spoke on several occasions as the longtime conservative activist worked diligently to gain information about the stolen Democratic emails and prod the pro-transparency organization WikiLeaks to release them.
Government lawyers showed jurors a chart detailing how Stone was regularly in touch with the presidential candidate and his top 2016 campaign aides at the same time the WikiLeaks document dumps rocked Clinton’s White House bid.
One colored line detailed the frequency of Stone’s contacts with Trump.
The information came via an August 2018 FBI search warrant that the government is using to showcase apparent contradictions in Stone’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee from the fall of September 2017, when the panel was chasing down various leads about the Russian hack attacks.
Stone testified he had no relevant records about that critical time period and he denied having contact with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks. But the government prosecutors argued that call logs, email exchanges and other communications show something else. During the late summer of 2016, for example Stone had two calls with Trump himself and nearly 30 calls with deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates.
Stone also was in touch with Erik Prince, an informal Trump campaign adviser, in October 2016. They discussed the WikiLeaks document dumps, according to the documents.
“You are a great American,” Stone wrote in the exchange with Prince.
Prosecutors also revealed that before Stone and Credico had their falling out, the GOP adviser seems to have unsuccessfully tried to butter up his liberal sparring partner.
After Stone’s attorneys sent a letter to Congress in October 2017, Stone sent Credico an inaccurate excerpt from that missive. The portion shared with Credico contained a variety of flattering statements about the talk show host and activist that were not contained in the version actually sent to the House Intelligence Committee.
The draft — or potentially doctored — paragraphs said Stone held Credico in “high regard” and hailed his “landmark interviews” with Assange on New York alternative radio station WBAI. The section Stone emailed Credico also detailed their cooperation on efforts to relax the New York drug laws and free drug convicts from prison.
“Does that language appear in the letter actually sent to the committee?” Kravis, the government prosecutor, asked Taylor.
“It does not,” she said.
Despite the profane and sometimes cruel exchanges, Credico repeatedly warned Stone that he was putting himself in legal danger by not being candid with the House committee. For months, the talk show host pleaded, unsuccessfully, with Stone to change his testimony about his intermediary to Assange. Federal prosecutors say Stone had actually been communicating about Assange with conspiracy theorist and author Jerome Corsi.
Credico also displayed a remarkable degree of foresight that Stone seemed to lack.
“I don’t know why you had to lie and say you had a back channel,” Credico wrote, after FBI agents seized his electronic communications.
“What the f*** is your problem neither one of us has done anything bad or illegal,” Stone replied. “If you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.”
“You opened yourself up to six counts of counts of perjury,” Credico wrote, more than a year before Stone was indicted on seven felony charges, including five for making false statements to Congress. “You should go back and amend your testimony and tell the truth….I’m sure you still have time.”
The post Insults, threats and the Godfather: Feds parade Roger Stone witness tampering evidence appeared first on Politico.