Ban­non: Stone link to Wik­ileaks

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By Ashraf Khalil and Michael Balsamo

For­mer top pres­i­den­tial ad­viser tes­ti­fies Trump’s cam­paign viewed Roger Stone as an “ac­cess point.”

WASH­ING­TON — Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign viewed Roger Stone as an “ac­cess point” to Wik­iLeaks and tried to use him to get ad­vanced word about hacked emails dam­ag­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton that the anti-se­crecy group re­leased dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, a for­mer top pres­i­den­tial ad­viser tes­ti­fied Fri­day.

In re­luc­tant tes­ti­mony, for­mer cam­paign CEO Steve Ban­non told a fed­eral court that Stone, on trial for ly­ing to Congress and wit­ness tam­per­ing, had boasted about his ties to Wik­iLeaks and its founder Ju­lian As­sange, alert­ing them to pend­ing new batches of dam­ag­ing emails.

“The cam­paign had no of­fi­cial ac­cess to Wik­iLeaks or to Ju­lian As­sange,” Ban­non told the court. “But Roger would be con­sid­ered if we needed an ac­cess point.”

It was the first time that any­one af­fil­i­ated with the Trump cam­paign ac­knowl­edged in court that they had ac­tively sought ma­te­rial from Wik­iLeaks, which re­leased ma­te­rial that U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies de­ter­mined had been hacked by the Rus­sian govern­ment in or­der to dam­age Clin­ton.

The White House had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

Stone, a color­ful po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive and Trump ally, is charged with wit­ness tam­per­ing and ly­ing to Congress about his at­tempts to con­tacts Wik­iLeaks about the dam­ag­ing ma­te­rial dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. He was ar­rested at his Fort Laud­erdale home in Jan­uary in a dra­matic pre-dawn raid.

While Stone re­peat­edly “im­plied that he had a con­nec­tion with Wik­iLeaks,” he never stated it di­rectly, Ban­non said.

The cam­paign took Stone’s boasts se­ri­ously enough to fol­low up, ask­ing why ex­pected in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton wasn’t re­vealed when As­sange held a news con­fer­ence in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Ban­non, who tes­ti­fied in re­sponse to a sub­poena, did not say any­thing about Trump and said Stone had not been sent by any­one on the cam­paign to talk to As­sange.

Ear­lier this week, a for­mer FBI agent tes­ti­fied about a flurry of phone calls be­tween Stone and then­can­di­date Trump — in­clud­ing three calls on July 14, 2016 — the day that a mas­sive hack of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s servers was re­ported. But the agent said she did not know what was dis­cussed on those calls.

As he left the court­house Fri­day, Ban­non griped about be­ing sub­poe­naed by pros­e­cu­tors and Congress in ad­di­tion to be­ing in­ter­viewed sev­eral times by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team as it in­ves­ti­gated Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“I was forced and com­pelled to come here to­day,” he said as he climbed into a wait­ing SUV out­side the court­house.

Ban­non’s tes­ti­mony came af­ter co­me­dian and ra­dio talk show Randy Credico told ju­rors that Stone pres­sured him into back­ing up lies he told Congress, threat­en­ing to take away his dog at one point. Credico said Stone pressed him to “go along” with a false ac­count of the op­er­a­tive’s con­tacts with Wik­iLeaks dur­ing the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

“He wanted me to go along with this nar­ra­tive,” Credico said in his sec­ond day of tes­ti­mony.

Stone called a Credico a “rat” and a “stoolie” in a threat­en­ing April 2018 email. Credico also tes­ti­fied that Stone used re­peated ref­er­ences from the movie “The God­fa­ther Part II” to in­tim­i­date him into ei­ther back­ing up Stone’s tes­ti­mony to Congress or re­fus­ing to tes­tify.

“My lawyers are dy­ing to rip you to shreds. I’m go­ing to take that dog away from you,” he said in the email, which Credico read aloud in court. And while Credico tes­ti­fied he con­sid­ered the threat “hy­per­bole,” he also said that Stone “plays hard­ball” and “I did not want to rile the guy.”

The ra­dio host told the court he’s had his dog Bianca, a small breed known as a co­ton de tulear, since 2006. “I have no wife, no kids, I’ve been around the dog for 12 years,” he said.

Credico has oc­ca­sion­ally pro­voked laugh­ter in court and warn­ings from the judge.

Thurs­day’s tes­ti­mony de­tailed the ac­ri­mo­nious col­lapse of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the lib­eral Credico and Stone, a long­time con­ser­va­tive op­er­a­tive who revered Richard Nixon so much that he has the dis­graced for­mer pres­i­dent’s face tat­tooed on his back.

Credico and Stone met in 2002 through the cam­paign of a third-party can­di­date for New York gov­er­nor. De­spite their po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, Stone was a reg­u­lar guest on Credico’s ra­dio show.

“He’s good on ra­dio,” Credico said of Stone. “He’s a good guest to have on.”

Stone, a long­time con­fi­dant of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and con­ser­va­tive op­er­a­tive who has a tat­too of for­mer pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s face on his back, is ac­cused of telling Congress that Credico was the source of his in­side in­for­ma­tion about Wik­iLeaks. But Credico said he and Stone never dis­cussed Wik­iLeaks be­fore late Au­gust 2016, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble that he was the “trusted in­ter­me­di­ary” that Stone had been re­fer­ring to for months.

Credico did man­age to con­tact As­sange through mu­tual ac­quain­tance Mar­garet Kun­stler and hosted As­sange on his ra­dio show on Aug. 25, 2016. He says Stone, who had al­ready claimed in in­ter­views to have a back-chan­nel link to As­sange, im­me­di­ately started ask­ing Credico to put him in touch with As­sange.

Pros­e­cu­tors have said Stone lied about his ef­forts to learn more about the Wik­iLeaks re­leases be­cause the truth about his ef­forts would “look bad” for Trump.

In an of­ten-testy cross ex­am­i­na­tion, de­fense at­tor­ney Robert Buschel tried to paint Stone as the vic­tim of a con job by Credico, say­ing that the ra­dio host re­peat­edly lied to Stone to ex­ag­ger­ate his con­nec­tion and in­flu­ence with As­sange.

They went through the pair’s text ex­changes be­fore Credico’s Septem­ber 2016 trip to Lon­don. Credico wrote to Stone that a meet­ing with As­sange, who was shel­ter­ing from pros­e­cu­tion in the Ecuado­ran em­bassy, was “on the agenda.” In re­al­ity, there was no meet­ing planned and the clos­est Credico got to As­sange was de­liv­er­ing a let­ter from his ra­dio sta­tion’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to the em­bassy of­fer­ing As­sange a show on their chan­nel.

Credico said Stone was pes­ter­ing him with re­quests and that he led Stone to be­lieve he was work­ing on mak­ing con­tact with As­sange “just to sat­isfy him and get him off my back.”

Stone’s trial is sched­uled to re­sume on Tues­day.

AL DRAGO/AP PHO­TOS

Roger Stone and his wife, Ny­dia, ar­rive at Fed­eral Court for his fed­eral trial in Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day.

Steve Ban­non departs af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing on Fri­day in the fed­eral trial of Roger Stone.

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