With the Senate gearing up for an impeachment trial to reckon with (or not) the president’s unconstitutional behavior in Ukraine, it’s easy to forget that the Justice Department is still dealing with the Trump team’s last constitutional crisis, as the Republican operative Roger Stone faces charges of obstructing justice, witness tampering, and lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his role in the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia during the 2016 election.
Much of the testimony on Thursday had to do with the adviser’s relationship to comedian — and living Fozzie Bear — Randy Credico. (Stone allegedly lied to Congress that Credico was his sole connection to WikiLeaks, the news leak organization that Stone contacted for “kryptonite” on Hillary Clinton.) Considering Stone’s history of excessive swearing and Credico’s inability to let a joke go unsaid, both the judge and Stone’s defense attorney warned jurors that they were in for an unusual day of testimony.
Much of the evidence for the witness-tampering charge relied on text messages Stone sent to Credico, bullying him into keeping quiet as lawmakers investigated Stone’s role in the Trump campaign. In April of 2018, Stone derided his former friend: “When I wipe my ass what’s on the toilet paper is worth more than you are. You’re an alcoholic drug addicted out of work piece of shit.” Another text attacked Credico’s 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 piece of shit.” More summarily, he texted Credico: “Let’s get it on. Prepare to die cock sucker.”
The texts were as mean as Credico’s testimony was strange. Toward the beginning, prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky needed to show how the pair first began their friendship, when Credico provided impersonations for Stone’s radio show around 2002. Of particular note was his Vito Corleone, Marlon Brando’s character in The Godfather.
“You’re tempting me to do the voice,” Credico said.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ensured him that was not the case. “We know you’re a comedian, but this is serious business.”
Earlier, jurors were provided an email with all the impersonations Credico had under his belt, an extensive list of politicians including Ronald Reagan and Bernie Sanders. Credico, again, wanted to entertain: “Would you like to hear some? Not even Bernie Sanders?”
Credico also addressed Stone’s suggestion that he “do a Frank Pentangeli” impression. Unlike the apparently intolerable comedian’s other bits, this one involved a crime, not a vocal impression. In The Godfather Part II, Pentangeli abandons his plan to testify against Michael Corleone and to lie to Congress after the family head played by Al Pacino ensures Pentangeli’s brother’s passage from Sicily to the States.
Though both Stone and Trump are fans of the Coppola trilogy, Judge Jackson did not encourage the jurors to familiarize themselves with it. In addition to the usual warning to the jury not to follow the trial in the media or speak of it with anybody outside the court, she said that included “not even downloading The Godfather on Netflix.”