WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump told a top aide during the height of the 2016 campaign that “more information would be coming” — an apparent reference to upcoming releases by WikiLeaks of hacked Democratic emails, the aide, Rick Gates, said on Tuesday during testimony in the trial of Roger J. Stone Jr. The candidate made the comment after a July 2016 phone call with Mr. Stone, Mr. Gates said.
Russian operatives stole tens of thousands of emails from Democratic computers in early 2016 and funneled them to WikiLeaks as part of an effort to sabotage the 2016 race and improve Mr. Trump’s chances of election.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Stone talked by phone on July 31 as Mr. Trump rode to La Guardia Airport, nine days after WikiLeaks had rattled Hillary Clinton’s campaign by releasing thousands of stolen Democratic emails, Mr. Gates testified. Although he could not hear the conversation from his seat in the back of the S.U.V. they were riding in, Mr. Gates said, he could see Mr. Stone’s cellphone number on a console. As soon as he hung up, he said, Mr. Trump turned to him and predicted more information would be released.
His testimony underscored the limits of President Trump’s cooperation with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who this spring finished his two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump refused to be interviewed, agreeing only to respond to written questions, a stance that frustrated the special counsel’s team.
In written answers, Mr. Trump said he recalled no conversations with Mr. Stone during the six months before he was elected. He also said he did not recall ever discussing WikiLeaks with Mr. Stone, or knowing that his campaign aides were talking to Mr. Stone about WikiLeaks.
Mr. Gates said that “for months” before WikiLeaks’ July 22 release of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Stone had predicted to Mr. Trump’s aides that WikiLeaks had planned moves that would damage Mrs. Clinton. Campaign officials had brainstormed about how to react, he said, but their confidence in Mr. Stone’s predictions faltered as weeks passed and nothing happened.
When WikiLeaks disclosed nearly 20,000 emails that embarrassed Mrs. Clinton just before the Democratic National Convention, the Trump campaign “was in a state of happiness,” Mr. Gates said. “It was in a way a gift.”
Much of what Mr. Gates said in court is reflected in Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report, parts of which were blacked out because of secrecy rules governing grand jury evidence and other issues, a person familiar with the report said.
Mr. Stone, a 40-year friend and former campaign adviser of Mr. Trump’s, is on trial on charges of lying to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the committee was conducting its own investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, including the role of WikiLeaks.
Mr. Stone is also charged with trying to block the testimony of another witness who would have contradicted his account.
Prosecutors, who wrapped up their case on Tuesday morning, said Mr. Stone, 67, lied because the truth about his attempts to reach Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, would have reflected badly on Mr. Trump and his campaign. Defense lawyers have argued that Mr. Stone never deliberately misled investigators, but simply confined his answers to what he believed were the strict parameters of the committee’s inquiry.
Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge overseeing the trial in Washington, said she expects the case to go the jury by Wednesday, unless she grants a defense motion for acquittal filed Tuesday.
The charges against Mr. Stone carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, although the punishment for a defendant with no criminal record, like Mr. Stone, would almost certainly be far lighter.
Mr. Gates, who served as Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, has been a prominent witness in criminal prosecutions by Mr. Mueller’s team against Mr. Trump’s former aides. After pleading guilty to conspiracy and lying to federal investigators in early 2018, he testified about financial crimes he committed with Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign chairman. Mr. Manafort was convicted and is now serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison term.
Mr. Gates, who may be sentenced next month, is hoping that his cooperation with federal prosecutors will spare him a prison term, leaving him instead on probation.
Like Stephen K. Bannon, another former top Trump campaign official, he testified that Mr. Stone implied that he had inside information from WikiLeaks about the content or timing of its releases of the stolen Democratic emails. He said Mr. Stone had asked for the contact information for Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior campaign adviser, and for another top political aide, so he could pass information to them.
The Stone case is the third in which Mr. Gates has appeared as a prosecution witness. He also testified in August in a high-profile case against Gregory B. Craig, an aide to former President Barack Obama who was found not guilty of charges related to foreign lobbying. Mr. Gates said Tuesday that F.B.I. agents and prosecutors had interviewed him about 40 to 50 times.
Besides the cases against Mr. Stone and Mr. Gates, there is one other prosecution brought by Mr. Mueller that remains to be resolved. Michael T. Flynn, a former national security adviser for Mr. Trump who pleaded guilty to lying to F.B.I. agents in 2017, awaits sentencing.
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