“The only conceivable purpose is to confuse or distract the jury,” said Jackson at one of Stone’s last pretrial hearings in federal court in Washington.
Stone, 67, is charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to gather information about the stolen Democratic emails. Stone was in frequent contact with members of Trump’s campaign about the release of the emails, by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and others.
The longtime GOP operative has pleaded not guilty to a seven-count indictment, and sought to force prosecutors to prove in court the role of Russian operatives in hacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, among others.
But Jackson issued a string a rulings rejecting Stone’s attempts at trial to attack prosecutors with former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s central finding that Moscow had a primary role in “sweeping and systemic” cyber-interference in the 2016 election.
Jackson on Tuesday denied Stone’s request to toss out search warrant evidence in the case, saying his defense “has not come close” to showing the government misled the judges who approved the warrants about Russian involvement, that federal agents knowingly lied to them or that the warrants were premised on Russia’s role in the hacking.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Jackson focused on Stone’s September 2017 testimony to the House panel, which was investigating foreign election interference.
“We’re not going to try the investigators here, or the investigation,” Jackson said. Rather she said the question is whether Stone told the truth to lawmakers.
“Even if what he did or what he knew didn’t show it was the Russians, his truthful testimony could simply have led the committee to other” witnesses, Jackson said, saying that was the point: “This was an investigation.”
Jackson did say Stone’s defense was free to challenge the credibility of New York radio host Randy Credico and conservative political commentator Jerome Corsi, other witnesses who dealt with Stone regarding the email leaks, and whether they received promises from prosecutors in exchange for cooperation.
Stone attorney Bruce S. Rogow also said the defense could seek to question former campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon. Stone’s indictment alleges he communicated about WikiLeaks with “a high ranking Trump Campaign official,” whose emails in the filing match those of Bannon.
Jackson withheld ruling on two other sensitive questions, including whether prosecutors could present jurors with evidence of another alleged lie Stone told the committee.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Marando argued that Stone falsely denied communicating with Trump’s campaign about his political-action-committee-related activities, and that the lie revealed his calculated plan to cover up his ties to the campaign and obstruct the committee’s work.
Rogow disagreed, calling the allegation more prejudicial than revealing and saying that it would divert jurors into a matter that Stone was not charged with.
Jackson also said she was inclined to deny prosecutors’ request to show jurors show a clip of the 1974 film “The Godfather Part II” to illustrate an allegation in Stone’s indictment that he told Credico to do a “Frank Pentangeli” in his House testimony to avoid contradicting Stone.
Pentangeli is a character in the film who testifies before a congressional committee, during which he falsely claims not to know critical information after being threatened by a mafia boss.
“The clip is very powerful and very prejudicial,” Jackson said, adding that she took prosecutors’ point “that a picture was worth a thousand words, but that also gives this evidence maybe more weight than other evidence.” Jackson said she would rule after seeing how witnesses addressed the topic at trial.
Separately, Jackson denied Stone’s request to subpoena the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for an unredacted version of a report by CrowdStrike, the private cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate the June 2016 attack.
Jackson reviewed the report and said that it bore no relevance to Stone’s case, that it was protected by attorney-client privilege because CrowdStrike was retained by the committees’s attorneys in expectation of litigation, and that redacted portions address security recommendations against future attacks.