Trump ally Stone on trial accused of lying to Congress
The criminal trial of Donald Trump's long-time adviser Roger Stone was set to begin yesterday on charges arising from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that documented Russian interference to help Mr Trump win the 2016 US election.
The trial could renew attention on efforts by Mr Trump's campaign to capitalise on emails embarrassing to his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton that US intelligence officials have concluded were stolen by Russian state-backed hackers.
It also coincides with the impeachment inquiry against the Republican president over Mr Trump's request that Ukraine investigate a Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Mr Mueller's investigation led to criminal charges against several Trump advisers and campaign aides. Mr Stone is just the second from this group not to plead guilty.
Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's former campaign chairman, was convicted by a Virginia jury last year and is now serving a prison sentence of seven-and a-half years.
Mr Stone, a self-described "dirty trickster" and "agent provocateur, has pleaded not guilty to obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is now spearheading the impeachment inquiry.
Mr Stone, a Republican operative since the days of the Watergate scandal, has been a friend and ally of Mr Trump for some 40 years.
Opening statements could begin as soon as today, with the trial expected to last at least two weeks.
Mr Stone is accused of lying to US lawmakers investigating Russian election interference about the Trump campaign's efforts to obtain the hacked emails that were published by the WikiLeaks website to undermine Clinton's candidacy.
The indictment refers to an October 2016 email from a "high-ranking Trump Campaign official" asking Mr Stone to inquire about future releases of emails by "Organization 1", a reference to WikiLeaks. Mr Stone responded that "Organization 1" would release "a load every week going forward". The election was in November 2016.
The high-ranking official is believed to be former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who is listed among potential trial witnesses along with Mr Trump's former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, radio host Randy Credico and conservative author Jerome Corsi.
Also mentioned was Wiki-Leaks founder Julian Assange, though he is not expected to appear as he is in London fighting extradition to the US on charges of conspiring to hack government computers and violating espionage laws.