/WikiLeaks, dog threats and a fake death notice: Roger Stones odd friendship with Randy Credico

WikiLeaks, dog threats and a fake death notice: Roger Stones odd friendship with Randy Credico

Credico’s 90-minute grilling by Stone defense lawyer Robert Buschel was high drama. Stone’s team painted Credico as a habitual liar who had repeatedly portrayed himself as someone who actually was in close contact with WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange as it mysteriously hinted that a huge dump of politically explosive material was coming.

As Credico and Buschel sparred, the judge presiding over the trial had to intervene multiple times. At one point, the witness simply threw up his hands and shouted back at his questioner.

“OK. I’m the big back channel!” Credico shouted, his answer laced with sarcasm. “I mean, come on, buddy.”

While Stone seems to have been the dominant figure in the relationship between the odd pair, Buschel contended that Credico’s repeated suggestions he had close ties to Assange and his inner circle actually Stone.

“So when Roger Stone got the impression you were an intermediary a go-between between WikiLeaks, you played him,” the defense lawyer said, prompting an objection from the prosecution. “You thought that you played Roger Stone?”

“That I played Roger Stone?,” Credico said incredulously. “I had to get Roger Stone off of my back, my friend.”

Stone and Credico actually have a working relationship going back more than a dozen years. It started with Credico’s long-shot New York gubernatorial campaign and featured the two men appearing on each other’s radio shows as guests even though they are polar political opposites. The ties have also been strained and ruptured on several occasions.

Back in 2011, Stone blasted out on social media that Credico had died of a drug overdose, a practical joke that Credico said alarmed his friends and family. Things kept going south in the wake of the 2016 campaign as Stone started implying that his way into the world around Assange was through someone he eventually identified as Credico.

The claim ended up pulling Credico into a legal thicket that continues to this day. But in the aftermath of a presidential campaign that divided the country, Credico said he feared his standing with his left-leaning friends would be destroyed as the Watergate-era operative and showman pointed to him publicly as his so-called “back channel” to WikiLeaks.

“I can’t work on his level,” the entertainer and activist said. “He plays hardball. He throws a lot of junk and I didn’t want to get hit.”

Stone looked on impassively during Credico’s tumultuous testimony, leaning in to look at exhibits being displayed on a TV monitor at the defense table and occasionally using a Sharpie to jot notes on pink index cards and pass them to his lawyers.

During a rapid-fire series of questions from a federal prosecutor earlier Friday, Credico acknowledged repeatedly that he felt intimidated as Stone urged him in 2017 and 2018 to avoid speaking to congressional and FBI investigators who’d been asking their own uncomfortable questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I did not want to rile Mr. Stone,” Credico answered near the end of a 90-minute exchange that opened day four of Stone’s trial.

A federal grand jury Washington indicted Stone in January for deceiving lawmakers by concealing earlier efforts to dispatch a right-wing journalist, Jerome Corsi, to gather damaging Clinton emails from Assange. Stone is also charged with pressing Credico to stay silent in the face of government investigations by threatening his omnipresent therapy dog Bianca.

While Credico’s testimony bolstered prosecutors’ allegations that Stone lied and ignored repeated pleas from Credico to retract his testimony, one portion of what the liberal activist said on cross-examination appeared to undercut the most serious of the seven felony counts Stone faces — the charge of witness tampering.

The indictment against Stone treats an email he sent Credico in April 2018 as a serious threat. In the message, Stone calls him “a rat” and “a stoolie” and vows to “take that dog away from you.”

But Stone’s defense managed to get Credico to acknowledge that he did not think Stone would ever actually harm Credico’s dog.

Stone is a “dog lover,” Credico said on the witness stand. “I don’t think he was going to steal my dog. I think he was pretty riled up at that time. … I know he wouldn’t have ever touched that dog. It was hyperbole by him.”

That same email exchange also had another warning: “Lets get it on. Prepare to die, cocksucker.” It’s a statement that also appears in the Stone indictment, but it’s unclear whether prosecutors are arguing that Stone was actually threatening to kill Credico.

Prosecutors alleged that Stone’s effort to pressure Credico included threatening to reveal the role of one of Credico’s longtime friends in their discussions about WikiLeaks. The friend, Margaret Kunstler, was one of many lawyers working with Assange.

Credico testified that he emailed Kunstler at Stone’s behest in September 2016 asking a couple of questions about the possibility of WikiLeaks having some documents relating to Clinton’s Libya policies. Credico said he didn’t treat the request seriously, sending the message to an old America Online account he knew Kunstler wouldn’t regularly check hoping it would get Stone to stop asking him about the topic.

More than a year later, when Credico was considering what to say to investigators and the media, Stone dangled the prospect of making information about Credico’s outreach to Kunstler public.

“She’s a very close friend of mine,” Credico said, struggling to maintain his composure. “She’s an older woman. And, uh, I didn’t want to drag her through this. I didn’t want to drag her name through this.”

Stone, meantime, kept bringing up Kunstler’s name throughout 2018. In one text message from May, Stone wrote to Credico: “You are so full of shit. You got nothing. Keep running your mouth and I’ll file a bar complaint against your friend Margaret.”

Asked if he remained concerned about what Stone could do with respect to Kunstler throughout 2018, Credico replied “yes.” He added later, “That was the crux of it.”

Government prosecutors have released emails and elicited testimony that showed Stone used other tactics to keep Credico quiet, including an April exchange where Stone wrote, “I’m going to take that dog away from you. Not a fucking thing you can do about it either because you are a weak piece of shit.”

Credico testified that he had no immediate family besides a sister, and Stone knew the importance of the dog. “I’m sure he did. I was with a dog. I’d been around the dog for the previous 12 years,” he said.

Stone had also tangled with Credico in other ways. On Thursday, the liberal activist said the two men had a falling out in 2011 after Stone sent out word on the internet that Credico was dead. “It caused some problems,” Credico said. “It’s a big practical joke except by my friends and family.”

They talked about another incident in March 2018, after Stone published a blog post that further explained their relationship. Stone wrote about how he was “probably over dramatizing the role” Credico played as his backchannel to WikiLeaks. He also described in the article a purported incident where Credico did a Stone impression on a late-night voicemail message left for the father of New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer.

On the witness stand, Credico denied that he made any such call to “old man Spitzer.”

“First of all, it was so absurd. Who’d want to do something like that? I don’t even know the guy,” Credico said.

That was one of many incidents between Credico and Stone. “We’ve had many, you know, squabbles,” Credico said.

All that bad blood found its way into court, which Buschel tried to highlight during his cross-examination. “You have lied to him throughout the years?” Stone’s lawyer asked.

“You really want to go into that, about lies?” Credico replied.

At another point, Credico complained that Buschel was hairsplitting and quoting him inaccurately. “Is that the exact words? That’s not the exact words,” Credico snapped. “You’re paraphrasing. Why don’t you just give it to me directly.”

As the two men heatedly talked over each other, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson jumped in to call a time-out.

After Credico apologized, the judge replied, “I’m not saying you did anything wrong. I’m just trying to calm things down here.”