by Chuck Ross
When the federal judge presiding over the trial against Roger Stone referred to the government’s star witness, Randy Credico, as “difficult” on Friday, none of the members of the jury or others in the Washington, D.C., court room overheard her pointed remarks.
District Judge Amy Berman Jackson made the observation during a side bar discussion with lead government attorney Aaron Zelinsky and Stone lawyer Robert Bushchel, according to a transcript of the court proceedings obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Jackson made the remark after two days of testimony that saw Credico, a comedian and longtime frenemy of Stone’s, repeatedly chided for going off track in response to questions, and for attempting to perform impressions.
After one contentious exchange, Jackson called a side bar for Bushchel and Zelinsky, who was assistant special counsel on the Robert Mueller probe.
“In our defense, the witness — ” Bushchel began to tell Jackson, according to the court transcript.
“Is difficult,” Jackson interjected. “I’m doing the best I can.”
“Believe me, I think everybody is doing the best under difficult circumstances,” Jackson also told the lawyers.
“I don’t usually insert myself in examinations as often as I have.”
“I’m trying to facilitate what you’re doing, and focusing in ways that maybe are less threatening to him so that he can actually answer the question.”
While the jury was unable to hear the exchange thanks to the use of a husher, which blocks out ancillary noise, they did observe Credico undermining several key planks of the government’s case against Stone, who was indicted Jan. 24 on seven counts, including witness tampering, obstruction of a government proceeding, and making false statements to Congress.
Credico acknowledged during cross-examination Friday that Stone, who he has known since 2002, is a “dog lover.” Credico also testified that he had “many” associates, including some of his legal advisers, urging him to plead the Fifth to avoid cooperating with the House Intelligence Committee.
Prosecutors said Stone obstructed with the House Intelligence investigation, and committed witness tampering by threatening Credico into pleading the Fifth. Among the threats that prosecutors are alleging are from an April 9, 2018, message that Stone sent Credico referring to the comedian’s 12-year-old therapy dog, Bianca.
“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, broke, piece of shit. I will prove to the world you are a liar.”
Stone told Credico in another text message: “Prepare to die, cocksucker.”
Days after Stone sent the text message, Credico began giving interviews in which he accused Stone of “crossing the line” by threatening Bianca, who travels with its owner.
“It’s certainly scary,” Credico told journalist Michael Isikoff on April 13, 2018, days after Stone sent the messages. “When you start bringing up my dog, you’re crossing the line.”
Other media outlets picked up on Credico’s remarks, and pushed the narrative that Stone’s messages could lead to witness intimidation charges. Ari Melber, an MSNBC anchor who frequently had Credico as a guest, ran a segment Aug. 14, 2018, raising the specter that the special counsel would investigate Stone over his text messages about Bianca.
But Credico on Friday undercut the notion his past remarks, as well as part of the government’s case.
“I don’t think he was going to steal my dog. I think he was pretty riled up at that time,” Credico acknowledged during cross-examination from Bushchel, the Stone lawyer.
“I know he wouldn’t have ever touched that dog. It was hyperbole by him.”
“Does he love my dog? I think he loves all dogs. I don’t think he would steal a dog, no,” Credico added.
Reporters who were in the Washington, D.C., court room acknowledged that Credico’s testimony undercut the government’s case.
Prosecutors can’t be happy with Credico’s last answer. They made it a point in their opening to say that Stone sent Credico a message that he would take his dog.
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) November 8, 2019
Point for Roger Stone: Randy Credico says his dog Bianca was never in serious danger: "I don’t think he would steal a dog. I don’t think he was going to steal the dog … I know he would have never touched that dog. So it was hyperbole by him."
— Rachel Weiner (@rachelweinerwp) November 8, 2019
Credico also acknowledged that he pleaded the Fifth in response to the House Intelligence Committee after speaking with multiple associates, including Stone.
“He’s one of many reasons why I took the Fifth,” Credico said.
“[T]here’s a thousand reasons why I took the Fifth. I got advice from him,” added Credico.
He said another reason he pleaded the Fifth was to avoid drawing his longtime friend, Margaret Ratner Kunstler, into the saga involving WikiLeaks.
Kunstler was an outside legal adviser to WikiLeaks during 2016. Stone has asserted that tips that Credico provided him prior to WikiLeaks’ release of Clinton campaign emails Oct. 7, 2016, came via Kunstler.
“I didn’t know what to do at that point,” Credico said of his deliberations about pleaded the Fifth.
“Do I protect myself being associated with Donald Trump? If I — if I do that, then I sacrifice Mrs. Kunstler’s reputation. So, that’s the line I was walking at that particular point.”
Stone and Credico began their latest falling out after Stone agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017. Weeks after the testimony, Stone told the committee Credico was a back-channel for information in 2016 regarding WikiLeaks.
Credico vehemently denied in 2018 being a back-channel between Stone and WikiLeaks, though text messages cited during the trial do show Credico provided Stone with insights into WikiLeaks’ plans that proved accurate.
“[B]ig news Wednesday,” Credico wrote to Stone on Oct. 1, 2016. “[N]ow pretend u don’t know me.”
“Hillary’s campaign will die this week,” he wrote the next day.
“Off the Record Hillary and her people are doing a full-court press they keep Assange from making the next dump … That’s all I can tell you on this line,” he also wrote, adding: “please leave my name out of it.”
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Chuck Ross is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Courtroom sketches by Leigh Brown. Follow Brown on Instagram.