Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told a federal court Friday that he considered Roger Stone the Trump Campaign’s ‘access point’ to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
However, the ex-Breitbart News chief said he had no direct knowledge of Stone’s links to Assange and assumed there was a relationship because Stone had been ‘boasting’ about it and mentioning it in the media.
He was also at pains to say that to the ‘best of his knowledge’ nobody on the Trump Campaign ever asked Stone to secure info from WikiLeaks, nor did anyone ask him to relay messages to its founder.
Nonetheless he told Stone’s lying-to-Congress trial that the Trump Campaign did indeed have an interest in anything that could ‘help Donald Trump and possibly hurt Hillary Clinton.’
The evidence is likely to be highly damaging to Stone’s case, painting him as being in direct touch with WikiLeaks when his defense against charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering is that he was making false brags of access to improve his own image.
But it also paints the Trump campaign as willing to use – if not solicit – foreign assistance from an alleged criminal to win the election.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon told a federal court Friday that Roger Stone was considered the Trump Campaign’s ‘access point’ to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. He’s pictured leaving federal court wearing three shirts, a blazer and a wax coat to testify in the trial of Roger Stone in Washington, D.C. where the temperature was 42 degrees F
Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, pictured leaving court with his wife (left) and daughter (right) wearing a gray three-button suit jack and blue striped shirt with a cutaway collar and spotted tie, previously told Congress that Randy Credico was his back channel to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange
Bannon said he had no direct knowledge Stone’s link to Julian Assange (pictured) but assumed there was a relationship because Stone boasted about one
WikiLeaks’ Assange is an Australia citizen who at the time was hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after skipping bail on rape charges; he is now in a UK prison fighting extradition to the U.S. on espionage charges.
THE CHARGES AGAINST ROGER STONE
Roger Stone is charged with:
1. Obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering by trying to get Randy Credico to lie to Congress
2. Lying to Congress that he did not have emails or texts about Julian Assange
3. Lying when he claimed his references to being in touch with Assange were actually about a ‘go-between’ – Randy Credico
4. Lying that he didn’t ask his ‘go-between’ to communicate with Assange
5. Lying that he didn’t text or email the ‘go-between’ about WikiLeaks
6. Lying that he had never discussed conversation with his ‘go-between’ with anyone in the Trump campaign
‘The campaign had no official access to WikiLeaks to Julian Assange but Roger would have been considered an access point if we needed an access point because he implied and he told me he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange,’ he told jurors this afternoon.
Bannon told the court he was subpoenaed to appear in Washington, D.C. Federal Court and otherwise would not have testified against Stone.
He was dressed head to toe in black pants, a black blazer, two black button up shirts, plus an under shirt in keeping with his reputation as a Machiavellian right-wing figure who once boasted ‘darkness is good’ in politics.
Bannon said he had known Stone since his Breitbart days and they were regularly in contact even before he became chief executive of the Trump campaign on August 12 2016.
‘I talked to Roger every couple of weeks, by email I guess at first, maybe a phone call, but principally by email,’ he told jurors. ‘I know he had a long standing relationship with the candidate.’
By the time he was appointed to the campaign’s top position they were talking more regularly, he said. He confirmed WikiLeaks came up on occasion in private chats.
As to whether Stone had specifically claimed to have direct contact with them, Bannon said: ‘Never directly but I think he implied he had a relationship with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.’
He added: ‘I wouldn’t call it bragging, maybe boasting. There’s a difference. He would mention it.’
Bannon insisted the pair never discussed WikiLeaks at length, however, and he considered the hacked DNC materials disseminated by WikiLeaks as only ‘marginally’ helpful to Trump’s electoral prospects.
Prosecutor Michael Marando asked him read over an email Stone sent him on August 18 2016, one day after he was announced as the Trump Campaign CEO.
‘Trump can still win – but time is running out. Early voting begins in six weeks. I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,’ Stone wrote.
Bannon wrote back ‘Let’s talk asap’ but he told jurors he didn’t consider that a reference to WikiLeaks.
‘Roger is an agent provocateur and expert in opposition research, the tougher side of politics,’ he said. ‘And when you are that far behind you need to use every tool in the tool box.’
He sent Stone a further email on October 4 stating: ‘What was that this morning?’
Bannon explained that was a reference to a press conference held by WikiLeaks that morning in London that was supposed to herald a big ‘dump’ of hacked Democratic Party emails.
‘It didn’t turn out to be what people were hyping it up to be,’ he said.
The aim of Bannon’s email was twofold: ‘One to find out why there was no announcement and also a bit of a heckle that nothing came out,’ he said.
Stone replied to say Assange had held the material back because he was living in fear of assassination, to which Bannon replied: ‘He didn’t cut deal w / Clintons?’
He told the court he was merely being ‘cynical’ after his many years in politics.
‘I always believe that he [Stone] had the relationship with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks but it never came up that there was anybody else,’ he said.
Bannon testified that the Trump Campaign did have an interest in anything that could ‘help Donald Trump and possibly hurt Hillary Clinton’
Bannon said he had no direct knowledge of Stone’s link to Assange but assumed there was a relationship because Stone boasted about it
Asked if he or the Trump Campaign ever instructed Stone or anyone else to see Assange or trade information, Bannon replied: Not to my knowledge, no.’
Bannon was chief executive of the Trump campaign and went on to work at the White House until he dropped out of the President’s administration only seven months later.
He was widely seen as Trump’s ideological link to America’s right-wing voters but the pair fell put when Trump fired him and blasted him on Twitter as a press-leaking ‘Sloppy Steve’.
However the populist nationalist has continued speaking publicly and rubbing shoulders with wealthy power brokers while boasting he was largely responsible for Trumps 2016 win.
Outside court Friday he complained to reporters that he had been forced to give evidence against Stone as well as at a previous grand jury hearing.
I was compelled to testify,’ he said. ‘I was under subpoena by Mueller. I was under subpoena by the House. I was forced to go to the grand jury and I’m forced and compelled to come here today.’
When asked by DailyMail.com if he thought Stone was innocent or guilty, he smiled and replied. ‘I can’t.’
Billed as the star witness, Bannon’s testimony lasted a mere 35 minutes Friday, with a further ten minutes of cross examination.
The trial had heard previously that he was one of several Trump aids who had communications with Stone after Democratic Party emails were hacked by Russia and disseminated by WikiLeaks in 2016.
‘Stone regularly updated people on the Trump campaign at the senior levels about whatever information he thought he had about WikiLeaks. He was going to the very top of the Trump campaign, the CEO of the Trump campaign – a man named Steve Bannon,’ said prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky.
Stone ‘straight up lied’ to Congress about back-channel efforts to obtain Democratic Party emails hacked by Russia and disseminated by WikiLeaks on the eve of the 2016 election, it’s alleged.
The self-proclaimed political dirty trickster wanted to cover his tracks because ‘the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,’ his trial has heard this week.
Bannon’s testimony paints the Trump campaign as willing to use – if not solicit – foreign assistance from an alleged criminal to win the election
Stone not only mislead lawmakers about his attempts to reach WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he also concealed conversations with high-ranking Trump Campaign officials who were eager to learn what dirt Assange had on their opponent, Hillary Clinton, it’s alleged.
Those conversations included email exchanges with jailed former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as well as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is due to testify in Stone’s trial along with a another disgraced former Trump aide, Rick Gates.
Stone also made several mysterious phone calls to Trump himself, one just hours after the DNC announced to the world it had been hacked, his Washington, D.C. District Court trial heard.
The silver-haired defendant, accompanied to proceedings this week by his wife Nydia and ‘spiritual advisor’ pastor Randy Short, denies obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the committee.
Jurors heard how the wily Republican operative and long-time confidante of Trump, seized upon the now-notorious hacking of Democratic National Committee emails as an opportunity to curry favor and help his friend get into the White House at Clinton’s expense.
He used two different associates to try to tease information from WikiLeaks about their plans to publish stolen emails embarrassing to the former Secretary of State, then contacted both Bannon and Manafort indicating that he could help swing the vote their way and ‘save Trump’s ass’.
But when asked to testify to the House Intelligence Committee one year later about Russian involvement in the DNC hack and attempts to interfere with the election, Stone mislead lawmakers and about his sources and hid a trove of emails, texts and documents, said prosecutor Aaron Zelinksy.
‘In a critical investigation of national importance, the defendant, Roger Stone, repeatedly lied under oath to a congressional committee and lied under oath to cover his tracks,’ he told the jury comprising nine women and three men.
The long-time GOP schemer was indicted by a grand jury as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia.
It’s alleged he told the author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi in August 2016 to have a friend ‘go see Julian Assange’ and ‘get a hold of emails’ that the WikiLeaks boss had up had up his sleeve.
Stone would later try and hide Corsi’s involvement from lawmakers, however, telling them his sole conduit was a comedian and radio host named Randy Credico who interviewed Assange in September 2016.
When Credico threatened to contradict the testimony by denying he was the principal go-between Stone had been publicly bragging about, Stone repeatedly told him to plead the Fifth or do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’, it’s claimed.
Randy Credico carried his dog Bianca as he left court after giving two days of testimony in the Roger Stone trial. He told the court Friday he feared being labeled as the ‘guy who helped Trump win the election’ due to his connections with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
Stone sent a stream of texts to Randy Credico which prosecutors say threatened the DJ and his 13-year-old therapy dog, Bianca the Coton de Tulear
Prosecutors say that Frank Pantangeli is a reference to a character in Godfather Part II who lies to a congressional committee to help the Corleone family before committing suicide (pictured is a photo from the filme)
Prosecutors say that is a reference to a character in Godfather Part II who lies to a congressional committee to help the Corleone family before committing suicide.
The rattled comic eventually did plead the Fifth but only after Stone peppered him with threats and insults, including ‘Prepare to die cocksucker. You are a rat,’ the court was told.
Credico said he was fearful Stone would try to implicate a close lawyer friend named Margaret Ratner Kunstler, who was part of Assange’s legal team
He even threatened Credico’s therapy dog Bianca, a 13-year-old Coton de Tulear, writing in an text message read out to the trial: ‘I’m going to take that dog away from you.’
‘I have no wife, no kids, just a sister who is still alive,’ Credico, testified Friday in court.
The satirist insisted he was a ‘spectator’ not a back channel, as Stone had told lawmakers.
He told jurors he became increasingly worried Stone would make him his ‘patsy’.
Credico was also fearful Stone would try to implicate a close lawyer friend named Margaret Ratner Kunstler who was part of Assange’s legal team and had helped get the WikiLeaks boss on Credico’s radio show.
‘I didn’t know what to do. Do I protect myself being associated with Donald Trump? If I do that I sacrifice Mrs Kunstler’s reputation, that’s the line I was walking,’ said Credico, an avowed left-winger and Bernie Sanders supporter.
‘I certainly didn’t want to be stuck as the guy who helped Trump win the election.’
In cross examination Credico was asked if he had tried to ‘play’ Stone by giving him the false impression he had a ‘special relationship’ with Assange.
‘There were exaggerations, there were lies, there were rebuffs, yes,’ he admitted.
Robert Buschel, defending, asked Credico whether he had introduced himself at a 2018 White House press function as ‘Roger Stone’s back channel’.
‘It was with a wink and a nod,’ the comic responded.
‘He plays hard ball. He throws a lot of junk. I did not want to get hit,’ he said of his erstwhile friend Stone, whom he had known for nearly two decades but fallen out with on numerous occasions.
Kunstler also took the stand Friday afternoon to deny passing any information from WikiLeaks or Julian Assange to Credico.
The NY-based attorney told jurors she never worked directly for Assange but represented his close adviser Sarah Harrison.
When Credico asked her to help get Assange on his radio show in August 2016 she agreed because she and her late husband had been friends with him for years.
‘I wrote a note to Mr Assange’s assistant saying a friend of mine had a radio program and would love to have Julian Assange on as a guest and I included Randy’s contact details on that message,’ she said.
Kunstler said she never asked Assange, whom she had met just a handful of times, for anything for Credico and never passed on any information about the DNC hack which she only learnt about from the media.
‘I’m a lawyer I don’t do things like that,’ she said.
Randy Credico told the court Friday that Stone told him to plead the Fifth or do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’ – in reference to a character in Godfather Part II who lies to congress (pictured leaving court Friday )
According to the government’s indictment, Stone – who briefly served on Trump’s campaign but was pushed out amid infighting with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski – is accused of telling five lies during his September 26 2017 testimony.
They say he lied that he did not have emails or texts about WikiLeaks and lied that he didn’t ask his ‘go-between’ to communicate with Assange.
WHO TO LOOK OUT FOR AT THE ROGER STONE TRIAL
Former deputy Trump campaign chief who turned Mueller witness. Forced to reveal secret Russian mistress when he testified against Paul Manafort, his former boss
Conspiracy theorist associate of Stone; fought off attempts by Mueller to force him into a plea deal. Previously pushed false claim Barack Obama was born in Kenya
Theodore ‘Ted’ Malloch:
Trump campaign figure whose role in contact with Assange will be explored by prosecutors; previously falsely claimed he was an Oxford professor and a Scottish laird
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton:
Will not be appearing as witnesses but prospective jurors were warned they will be mentioned during the trial
It’s alleged he further lied that he only had one associate acting as a back channel when he allegedly had two, and both lied and tampered with a witness when he later tried to get Credico to mislead Congress.
Finally, Stone is accused of lying that he had never discussed conversations with his ‘go-between’ with anyone in the Trump campaign.
‘Now you’ll ask why didn’t Roger Stone just tell the truth?’ Zelinsky told jurors. ‘The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad.
‘The truth looked bad to the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.’
Bruce Rogow, Stone’s lead defense attorney, claims his client never meant to lie and was merely guilty of boasting and overstating the extent of his contacts.
‘He did brag about his ability to find out what was going on,’ Rogow said. ‘But he had no intermediary.’
That was because, in reality, Credico and Corse were merely ‘playing’ Stone by claiming to have inside knowledge they didn’t have, Rogow said.
And the former Nixon campaign adviser – who has the disgraced former president’s face permanently tattooed on his back – was ‘playing others’ by pretending to have direct contact with WikiLeaks.
‘We think the evidence will show that there was no corrupt intent in whatever was said or done by Mr Stone,’ Rogow said.
At several points during the trial Judge Amy Berman Jackson has criticized ‘irresponsible’ media speculation about the identity of jurors, an apparent reference to alt-right publications claiming an Obama administration official had made it onto the panel.
‘It’s inaccurate and untrue and it puts the safety of everyone involved in this trial, including the jury, at risk,’ she warned Friday.
She also gave jurors a direction they could not refuse: Not to download the Godfather movies on Netflix.