Witness: Roger Stone wanted to ‘debrief’ Kushner on DNC email hack
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Witness: Roger Stone wanted to ‘debrief’ Kushner on DNC email hack

Trump confidant is on trial for allegedly lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing House probe into campaign’s ties to Russia

Roger Stone, the former adviser to President Donald Trump, arrives on the second week of his trial at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse on November 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)
Roger Stone, the former adviser to President Donald Trump, arrives on the second week of his trial at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse on November 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Stone asked for Jared Kushner’s contact information in order to “debrief” the president’s son-in-law about hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, according to testimony from Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide who became a key cooperator in the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Gates was testifying Tuesday at Stone’s criminal trial in federal court in Washington.

Jurors were shown text messages from Stone that included a June message asking for Kushner’s contact information. Gates did not say if Stone received Kushner’s information. Kushner was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign at the time.

Prosecutors in Stone’s trial told jurors last week that the longtime Donald Trump confidant repeatedly lied to Congress “because the truth looked bad” for the president.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens as he attends a working breakfast with US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Saturday, June 29, 2019. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The opening arguments in the case against Stone, a longtime Republican operative and provocateur, made clear that the president would be a central figure in the trial, even though the charges aren’t directly related to his interactions with Trump.

Stone is accused of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

Stone was indicted in January as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian electoral tampering. Mueller found that Russia tried to help Trump’s candidacy, but there wasn’t enough evidence to support criminal charges that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia.

“The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky told jurors in a Washington courtroom.

The Trump connection was also highlighted by the first prosecution witness, Michelle Taylor, a former FBI agent who had served on Mueller’s team. She listed a flurry of phone calls between Stone and then-candidate Trump — including three calls on July 14, 2016 — the day that a massive hack of the Democratic National Committee’s servers was reported. But Taylor said she did not know what was discussed on those calls.

Rick Gates leaves federal court in Washington, DC, on February 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Zelinsky, also a veteran of Mueller’s team, cast the case against Stone in stark, simple terms. Stone, he said, categorically denied any written communication with anyone regarding Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks, which published the stolen emails. Then Zelinsky showed half a dozen emails and text messages with Stone discussing Assange with different people. One email, asking an associate to try to contact Assange, came an hour after Stone and then-candidate Trump spoke on the phone.

Government lawyers later showed several interviews in which Stone claimed that he had “back-channel communication” with Assange and that they had “communicated through a trusted mutual friend.”

Defense attorney Bruce Rogow didn’t deny that Stone had said things that were untrue before the House committee. Rogow described his client as a natural braggart whose claims of insider information didn’t match reality.

“He did brag about his ability to try to find out what was going on,” Rogow said. “There was no intermediary between Mr. Stone and Julian Assange. It’s made-up stuff.”

Rogow repeatedly focused on Stone’s “state of mind” and intentions heading into the hearing. He said his client offered to testify willingly and contended that lawmakers misled Stone into thinking the hearing would focus solely on Russian interference, then ambushed him with questions about WikiLeaks.

“We think the evidence will show that there was no corrupt intent in whatever was said or done by Mr. Stone,” Rogow said. “He went without a subpoena. That’s not the usual way that people go about things if they’re intending to lie.”

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