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For more than four decades, Roger Stone has been a player in American politics. He rose to fame as a Republican political operative and self-described dirty trickster. He served as an informal adviser to Donald Trump for years, including during the 2016 presidential campaign. And today in federal court in Washington, D.C., a jury found Roger Stone guilty of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress. These convictions stemmed from a case brought by former special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation. NPR's justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is back in the studio to tell us more.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Thank you.
CORNISH: You were at the courthouse where the trial took place. What did you see today?
LUCAS: Well, the jury actually began its deliberations yesterday. This was a six-day trial. And then just before noon today, they returned their verdict. The nine women and three men on this jury found Stone guilty on all seven counts - so one count each of obstruction and witness tampering and then five counts of making false statements to Congress. Stone was, of course, in the courtroom today. He was dressed in a suit, had a pocket square, dark tie, some glasses. After the jury filed in, Stone was asked to stand, put his glasses on and listen to the jury as one count after another came back guilty.
Now, for a man who is known for his outsized personality, he showed no emotion. He was impassive as this happened. When he left the courthouse, he was surrounded by this gaggle of cameras. He got into a black SUV and left. He did not speak at all. There is still a gag order in him on this case, at least for now ahead of his sentencing.
CORNISH: So he's prevented from speaking. Remind us how he got here because as we mentioned, the roots of this are in that investigation into Russian interference in the election.
LUCAS: Right. So back in 2017, House lawmakers were investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Stone testified before Congress as part of that. This case against him stems from that appearance before Congress, and in that testimony, Stone lied to lawmakers about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks during the campaign. He wanted to find out from WikiLeaks what the group was up to, what it planned to do with thousands of Democratic emails that it had in its possession. These are emails, of course, that the U.S. government says were hacked by Russia. And WikiLeaks ultimately did publish those emails during the campaign, and they became a big part of the discussion of that campaign. As the government ultimately proved at trial, Stone also tried to intimidate a witness to not testify truthfully to Congress. All of these actions amounted to obstructing the House investigation. And prosecutors, interestingly, during the trial said that Stone did all of this in an effort to protect Trump.
CORNISH: What about Stone's attorneys? What was the defense, the case they made to the jury?
LUCAS: So they argued that Stone never intended to lie to Congress. They said that there was nothing wrong with trying to find out what WikiLeaks was up to. At root, they argued that, basically, this case against Stone was misguided. Stone himself did not testify, and interestingly, his lawyers didn't call any witnesses on his behalf.
Now, there has long been talk that Stone has been angling for a pardon from the president. These two, of course, have known each other since the 1980s. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a possible pardon. The president, however, did take to Twitter to comment on the verdict in Stone's case. He complained about Stone being found guilty by a jury, and he asked why Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller - why those three and others aren't going to jail.
CORNISH: I want to come back to the convicted here because the Mueller investigation is closed. So what kind of impact can this verdict have - this verdict on Roger Stone have for the Russia probe in general?
LUCAS: So the Russia investigation is closed. There are a number of investigations that spun out of it that we know of from the Mueller report. Some of those may still be ongoing. But Stone was the last person charged as part of this investigation. He was the second person to be found guilty in a jury trial. The other was Paul Manafort. There are a number of others who pleaded guilty. As for Stone, he'll be back in court in the first week of February for sentencing.
CORNISH: That's NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas.
LUCAS: Thank you.
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