Shouting “FBI, open the door,” authorities arrested Roger Stone, a confidant of President Donald Trump, before dawn Friday in a criminal case that revealed that senior members of the Trump campaign sought to benefit from the release of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.
CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports.
Stone, a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster,” faced a seven-count indictment in the first criminal case in months from special counsel Robert Mueller.
The judge set a $250,000 bond. Stone appeared in court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday. He did not enter a plea.
Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow told Stone he could not travel outside of South Florida, Washington, D.C. and New York City. Stone was also told he could not have any contact with any witnesses.
Prosecutors also asked that Stone undergo a drug test and his attorney did not object.
He was arrested in an early morning raid at his Florida home on charges of witness tampering, obstruction and lying to Congress.
Stone is the sixth Trump associate to be charged in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
The indictment provides the most detail to date about how Trump campaign associates in the summer of 2016 were actively seeking the disclosure of emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia, then provided to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. It alleges that unidentified senior Trump campaign officials contacted Stone to ask when stolen emails relating to Clinton might be disclosed.
The indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked the emails. Instead, it accuses him of lying to Congress about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing the probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to tip the election.
Some of those false statements were made to the House intelligence committee, prosecutors allege.
Stone is the sixth Trump aide charged in Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign and the 34th person overall. The investigation has laid bare multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign and transition period and efforts by several to conceal those communications.
The case against Stone comes weeks after Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was castigated by a judge in open court and just hours before Paul Manafort, his ex-campaign chairman, was due in court on allegations that he had lied to Mueller’s prosecutors.
In referring to Trump campaign officials and their desire to leverage hacked emails, the criminal case brings Mueller’s investigation into the president’s inner circle but it does not accuse the president of any wrongdoing or reveal whether he had advance knowledge of the WikiLeaks trove.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, told CNN on Friday the charges brought against Stone “don’t have anything to do with the president.”
Stone was one of Trump’s earliest political advisers, encouraging both his presidential runs. He briefly served on Trump’s 2016 campaign, but was pushed out amid infighting with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Stone continued communicating with Trump on occasion and stayed plugged into the circle of advisers — both formal and informal — who worked with and around Trump.
According to the indictment, many of Stone’s conversations during the campaign involved WikiLeaks. The indictment lays out in detail Stone’s conversations about stolen Democratic emails posted by the group in the weeks before Trump, a Republican, beat Clinton. Mueller’s office has said those emails, belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were hacked by Russian intelligence officers.
The document says that by June and July 2016, Stone had told senior Trump campaign officials that he had information indicating that WikiLeaks had obtained documents that could be damaging to Clinton’s campaign.
After the July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the indictment says a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone about additional releases and “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign.” The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone.
Another Trump campaign official cited in the indictment is Steve Bannon, who later became Trump’s chief strategist in the White House. Bannon, referred to as a “high-ranking Trump Campaign official,” exchanged emails with Stone in October 2016 about WikiLeaks’ plans for releasing hacked material. The indictment quotes from those emails, which had previously been made public by news outlets.
While the indictment provides some new insight into the Trump campaign, it deals largely with what prosecutors say were Stone’s false statements about his conversations with conservative writer and conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, and New York radio host, Randy Credico. Corsi is referred to as Person 1 in the indictment, and Credico as Person 2.
The indictment accuses Stone of carrying out a “prolonged effort” to keep Credico from contradicting his testimony before the House intelligence committee. During that effort, prosecutors note that Stone repeatedly told Credico to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,'” a reference to a character in “The Godfather: Part II” who lies before a congressional committee.
Stone is also accused of threatening Credico. The indictment cites several messages, some of which have already been public, that Stone sent to Credico last year. On April 9, Stone called Credico a “rat” and a “stoolie” and accused him of backstabbing his friends. Stone also threatened to “take that dog away from you,” a reference to Credico’s dog, Bianca.
“I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die (expletive),” Stone also wrote to Credico.
The indictment had been expected. Stone has said for months he was prepared to be charged, though he has denied any wrongdoing. A grand jury for months had heard from witnesses connected to Stone. And the intelligence committee last year voted to release a transcript of Stone’s testimony to Mueller as a precursor to an indictment.
Story by The Associated Press
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