Pivotal witness Gates testifies at trial of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone

Pivotal witness Gates testifies at trial of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The criminal trial of President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone resumed on Tuesday with another important prosecution witness: Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates.

FILE PHOTO: Roger Stone, former campaign adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, departs the U.S. District Court following the second day of his criminal trial in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

Jurors last week heard the first three days of testimony in the trial as prosecutors try to prove their case that Stone is guilty of obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Stone has pleaded not guilty.

Gates appeared under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors after pleading guilty last year to charges also arising from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 election. The government expects to conclude presenting evidence in the trial on Tuesday, as well as bring in former FBI agent Michelle Taylor for more testimony.

Prosecutors hope the Gates testimony will bolster their case that Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 by stating that he never spoke to Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks or the website’s founder, Julian Assange. The website disclosed numerous stolen emails in the months before the 2016 election that damaged Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent.

In a court filing on Monday, the prosecution said the testimony by Gates – who also testified last year against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in a trial in which Manafort was convicted and sent to prison for 7-1/2 years – will conclude his cooperation with the government.

The prosecution asked a judge to set a mid-December sentencing date for Gates.

Another prominent prosecution witness, former Trump campaign chief executive and White House strategist Steve Bannon, testified on Friday. Bannon told jurors Stone was viewed by Trump’s campaign as an “access point” to WikiLeaks and that Stone discussed connections to WikiLeaks and Assange at the time.

Mueller and U.S. intelligence agencies determined the emails released by WikiLeaks were stolen by Russian state-backed hackers as part of Moscow’s efforts to meddle in the election and boost Trump’s candidacy.

The Intelligence Committee is now spearheading the House impeachment inquiry against the Republican president over Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate a Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

Stone’s defense team may try to undermine Gates’ testimony by pointing to his motives for helping the government. Last year, Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in exchange for agreeing to cooperate and to provide information for Mueller’s investigation in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Gates also testified this year in the trial of Democratic former President Barack Obama’s White House counsel Greg Craig, who was acquitted on charges that he lied to the Justice Department about work he did for Ukraine’s government.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis


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