The final prosecution witness Tuesday against Roger Stone was former Trump campaign advisor Rick Gates, who testified about what President Trump may have known in 2016 about Wikileaks plans to release hacked Democratic emails.
Gates’ testimony suggested that Trump may have been aware of Wikileaks’ disclosure plans and of Stone’s efforts to present himself as a backchannel to the organization, according to reports by the Washington Post and Huffington Post.
Gates’ claims about Trump’s apparent knowledge come after Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that he did “not recall” being aware of communications — direct or indirect — between Wikileaks and Stone, Gates or his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Gates testified about a phone call between Stone and Trump in July 2016. Earlier in the trial, prosecutors presented phone records suggesting that Stone and Trump connected over the phone several times that summer and fall.
After getting off a call with Stone in July, Trump “indicated that more information would be coming,” Gates testified, according to the Huffington Post.
Gates also testified about a directive he received from Paul Manafort, who led the campaign until mid-August. Manafort told Gates to check in with Stone about the information coming from Wikileaks, according to the Washington Post’s report on Gate’s testimony. Gates testified that he was told by Manafort that other people from the campaign would be updated, “including the candidate,” the Washington Post reported.
In written answers to Mueller, Trump said he did “not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions” with Wikileaks or other entities that posted the hacked emails.
“I have no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1.2016 and November 8, 2016,” Trump said. “I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with him, nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign, although I was aware that WikiLeaks was the subject of media reporting and campaign-related discussion at the time.”
Mueller asked Trump if he was “aware of any communications during the campaign, directly or indirectly” between Stone, Manafort, Gates, or Donald Trump Jr., and representatives of Wikileaks or the other websites that posted hacked emails.
“I do not recall being aware during the campaign of any communications between the individuals named in Question II (c) and anyone I understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks or any of the other individuals or entities referred to in the question,” Trump said.
Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on the Gates testimony.
Earlier in the trial, prosecutors presented evidence, including emails and texts, that showed other top Trump advisors were aware that Stone was claiming to be an intermediary to Wikileaks. Steve Bannon, who became campaign CEO in mid-August, communicated with Stone about Wikileaks’ plans, as did Erik Prince, who was acting as an outside advisor to the campaign.
Gates’ testimony Tuesday, however, was the strongest indication that Trump too may have been in the loop.
Gates admitted in his testimony that he could not hear Stone’s side of the July conversation, according to the Washington Post. However, he testified that he was not aware of anyone else who would have been providing information about Wikileaks to the campaign at that time.
According to the Washington Post, Gates also testified about a July phone call he heard with Manafort and Stone that was on speaker phone, in which Stone promised Manafort, after the Wikileaks dump of DNC emails, that “additional information would be coming out down the road.”
On Monday, Gates and prosecutors indicated in a court filing that they were ready to schedule sentencing in Gates’ case, where he pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States as part of a cooperation deal with Mueller.
Stone has been charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee about various Wikileaks-related conversations, and with witness intimidation. Closing arguments in the trial are expected on Wednesday.