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Prosecutors in Roger Stone trial will call Steve Bannon to testify

Steve Bannon to testify in Roger Stone trial
Steve Bannon to testify in Roger Stone trial 00:36

Washington — Federal prosecutors in Roger Stone's trial told jurors they plan to call several high-profile witnesses to the stand, including Steve Bannon, and revealed new details about Stone's contacts with Trump campaign officials before and after the release of stolen Democratic National Committee emails in 2016, including several phone calls Stone had with then-candidate Trump.

On the first day of arguments in his trial on charges of witness tampering and making false statements, prosecutors said the longtime political operative spoke to Mr. Trump six times over the course of several weeks in June and July 2016, including on the day the DNC announced it had been hacked. The U.S. intelligence community determined the theft was the work of a sophisticated campaign by Russian intelligence operatives to boost Mr. Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said the government plans to call several high-profile witnesses over the course of the trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, including former Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon, deputy chairman Rick Gates and radio personality Randy Credico. Bannon is among the senior campaign officials who communicated with Stone about the hacked Democratic emails, prosecutors said. According to Zelinsky, Stone emailed Bannon that he knew how to win the 2016 election, but it "ain't pretty."

Zelinsky's opening argument laid out the government's accusations against Stone: that he lied to investigators about his contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, his dealings with Credico and his written records and communications, particularly with Trump campaign officials. Zelinsky told jurors that "Roger Stone straight up lied to the House Intelligence Committee ... to hide what he had done, because the truth looked bad."

Stone was accompanied in court Wednesday by his wife and daughter, who sat a member of the clergy there to support the family. Rightwing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos was also there for a second day, sitting in the family's pew and taking notes in a cheetah-print notebook with gold-leafed pages.

Roger Stone depicted in court on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. William J. Hennessy, Jr.

The first witness called to testify was Michelle Taylor, an FBI agent who worked on the case and outlined Stone's communication in the days after the DNC hack. Prosecutors presented evidence that Stone tried to get information to and from Assange, and use the hacked emails and information from Assange to influence the 2016 election. 

After WikiLeaks released the trove of documents on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Taylor said a Trump official messaged Stone to say, "Well done."

Stone's defense attorney, Bruce Rogow, argued that his actions lacked corrupt intent, pointing out that Stone voluntarily testified before the House Intelligence Committee. He also argued that Credico was "playing" Stone. 

The jury includes 11 women and three men, with the trial expected to last about three weeks under the direction of Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

During jury selection on Tuesday, Stone left the courtroom with a bout of food poisoning.

Jury selection begins in Roger Stone's trial 01:40

The longtime GOP political operative was indicted in January on seven charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction. The hacked DNC emails were released by "Organization 1," described in the indictment as having a leader at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London — as in Assange of WikiLeaks. The indictment claims that Stone spoke to senior Trump campaign officials about information that could damage Clinton's campaign. The indictment also alleges that Stone was contacted by senior Trump campaign officials to inquire about future releases that "Organization 1" might have.

Bannon will likely only be questioned about his time on the campaign and not about his time in the White House, which the defense wanted to bring up. Jackson also warned the defense that if they discuss Russian election interference, "I will stop you."

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