Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, finally faced a jury of his peers on Wednesday as the first full day of his trial began.
He stands accused of lying to Congress, obstructing Congress, and witness tampering in the course of the Russia investigation. Stone, who has spent a career billing himself as a political “dirty trickster” and is known for, among other things, proudly showing off a Richard Nixon tattoo on his back, denies the allegations.
But the U.S. Justice Department maintains it has substantial documentary evidence to prove its allegations, and it began to make its case to the jury on Wednesday, some of which had already been laid out in Stone’s indictment.
Here are five stunning moments from the trial.
1. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky said in his opening statement: “Evidence will show Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad. The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.”
This was a wild moment all on its own. Many had argued that Stone’s trial would be embarrassing for the president, but it was remarkable for a member of Trump’s own administration to admit it so forthrightly.
2. Stone’s own lawyer does not paint a pretty picture of his own client.
One lie the federal government has accused Stone of telling is that he misled Congress about his intermediaries with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. But Attorney Bruce Rogow said that this was all “made-up stuff” and that Stone and his allies were deceiving one another about being in contact with the organization.
“All of these people were playing each other,” Rogow said. “Trying to be important people, trying to say they had more than they really had.”
3. “To save Trump’s ass.”
Prosecutors revealed a new email sent during the 2016 campaign from Stone to Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort, who had a long relationship with Stone.
“I have an idea,” the subject line said. The body of the email said: “To save Trump’s ass. Call me please. R.”
This and other contacts between Stone and the campaign will be relevant to the government’s allegation that he lied to Congress about these communications.
4. “Tell [Mueller] to go fuck himself.”
The prosecutors presented messages between Stone and radio host Randy Credico, who was allegedly threatened and told to lie in his own testimony about contacts with WikiLeaks by Stone.
“Waste of your time — tell him to go fuck himself,” Stone said in one of the messages.
“Who?” said Credico.
Stone replied: “Mueller.”
Other texts, already revealed, show Stone saying Credico should do a “Frank Pentangeli.” Pentangeli was a character in the “The Godfather: Part II” who lied to Congress.
5. Zelinsky’s story strongly suggests that Trump lied to Mueller.
Prosecutors documented extensive phone calls between Stone and Trump himself, in addition to Stone’s contacts with the campaign. One of those calls came on June 14 — the same day it was reported that the Democratic National Committee was the victim of a Russian hack, a hack which led to the release of embarrassing emails by WikiLeaks. And the other evidence shows that Stone was corresponding with others who appeared to be in contact with WikiLeaks.
As Mother Jones reported:
The story that Zelinsky began telling at the start of the trial raised the possibility (or probability) that Trump and his campaign did interact with Stone regarding the WikiLeaks releases of stolen Democratic documents—and that they considered Stone a backchannel to Assange and his organization. (It remains an open question whether Stone had indeed obtained inside information on WikiLeak’s plans. Stone’s lawyers argued Wednesday that he only was sharing information that was already public.) Yet Trump told Mueller he had no memory of him or anyone else connected to his campaign communicating with Stone about WikiLeaks. That seems hard to believe.