Prosecutors say Roger Stone lied to Congress, as defense claims 'no corrupt intent'

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Prosecutors told the jury in a Washington federal courtroom Wednesday that Roger Stone lied to Congress and pressured an associate to keep quiet regarding communications he had surrounding WikiLeaks' release of hacked Democratic emails -- but his lawyers countered that President Trump's former adviser had "no corrupt intent."

The claims were part of opening statements as Stone's dramatic criminal trial began Wednesday morning.

Stone is facing charges stemming from Robert Mueller’s Russia probe for alleged witness intimidation and false statements to the House Intelligence Committee. During opening statements, the prosecution stated that Stone "wanted to hide what he had done because the truth looked bad."

“The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said.


The Special Counsel’s Office, which turned the case over to the Department of Justice after the conclusion of the investigation, claims that Stone lied about his interactions related to WikiLeaks' release during probes by Congress and Mueller’s team, and pressuring New York radio host Randy Credico into keeping quiet about it.

Stone, prosecutors said, pressured Credico to “do a Frank Pentangeli” in his testimony before Congress, a reference to a character from the 1974 film "The Godfather Part II" who backtracked his plans to provide Congress with incriminating testimony on the Corleone crime family.

Prosecutors said they plan on calling Credico to testify at the trial. They wanted to show a clip from the film during the trial. But, in a pre-trial ruling, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that they could only use a transcript of the scene.

It remains to be seen whether Stone will choose to testify in his own defense during the trial. Stone's lawyers argued that the former Trump adviser did not appear before the House Intelligence Committee with the intention of lying.

"All the texts and words are there, but what's not there is Mr. Stone's state of mind," Stone's attorney, Bruce Rogow, said. "The essence of our opening statement is that there was no corrupt intent in whatever was said or done by Mr. Stone."

Rogow added: "His lawyers wrote to the committee volunteering to appear, he was not subpoenaed. That's not the way people go to a committee meeting, certainly not if they're intending to lie."

Stone is not accused of conspiring with Russia or WikiLeaks in the hacking or publishing of the emails, but prosecutors alleged in their opening statement that in July 2016, after Stone learned that WikiLeaks was going to release hacked Democratic National Committee emails, he emailed former campaign chairman Paul Manafort saying he had an idea to "save Trump's ass."

Stone also allegedly emailed then-campaign CEO Steve Bannon, saying that Trump could still win the election, "but it ain't pretty." Prosecutors also said they had evidence that Stone called Trump twice during the same time period, but they did not know what was said.

Prosecutors have made clear they plan to call Bannon as a witness.

Stone's trial will resume Thursday with the same witness on the stand, Michelle Taylor, a former FBI agent who was on Special Counsel Mueller's team. During the investigation, Taylor went through scores of emails and text messages from Stone to many different people, including Bannon, Randy Credico, Jerome Corsi and Eric Prince.

In another reference to the Godfather films, Credico - in his communications with Stone - calls Hillary Clinton a "killer" and likens her to Luca Brasi, the personal enforcer for the Corleone family.

Stone’s case drew national attention from the time he was charged and arrested in a pre-dawn raid by armed FBI agents. Before long, Judge Jackson issued a gag order in the case, after Stone’s frequent statements to the media and a controversial Instagram post featuring an image of Jackson with crosshairs.


The judge then barred Stone from using social media at all, after determining that he violated an order with disparaging posts about Mueller’s investigation.

The trial saw dramatic moments even before it began. During the jury selection process Tuesday, Stone was sent home after telling the judge he was sick with food poisoning. Shortly before that, a man collapsed in the courtroom and was attended by Stone’s daughter, a trauma nurse, before he was wheeled away on a stretcher.

Wednesday morning, Stone was back in court, feeling "much better."

Fox News’ Gregg Re, Alex Pappas, Vandana Rambaran and The Associated Press contributed to this report.