A longtime associate of President Donald Trump’s, Roger Stone, has been indicted and arrested, charged with obstruction of an investigation, making false statements to the FBI and witness tampering. Stone was arrested in a pre-dawn raid at his home in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, last Friday.
Stone appeared before the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 to answer questions related to the ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Stone and President Trump have been close associates for decades. It was Stone who reportedly encouraged Donald Trump to run for president in 2016. While only an official member of the President’s campaign for a short while, Stone served as an outside advisor to the Mr. Trump and the campaign and continues to this day to be one of the President’s staunchest supporters.
The charges brought against Stone center on his actions with regards to the online publication WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee, as well as the chairman of the Hillary Clinton Campaign, John Podesta.
Those emails were stolen by hackers. WikiLeaks has refused to say how they came to be in possession of the them but it is widely believed among U.S. intelligence officials that the Russian government is responsible for hacking the emails and giving them to WikiLeaks.
Stone made several comments throughout the campaign indicating he had a backchannel of communication with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.
For example on August 8, 2016, Stone, speaking at a public event, told the audience, “I
actually have communicated with [Assange]. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”
Prosecutors allege Stone communicated with members of the Trump campaign about his knowledge of the emails, as well as when they would be released.
“By in or around June and July 2016, STONE informed senior Trump Campaign officials that he had information indicating [WikiLeaks] had documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign,” prosecutors write in the indictment.
They also indicated that members of the Trump campaign were ordered to contact Stone and inquire about any additional information he may be able to obtain about the emails WikiLeaks had.
“After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by [WikiLeaks], a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [WikiLeaks],” the indictment reads.
The allegations are seen as potentially damaging to the White House given the small number of individuals who qualify as senior Trump campaign officials and the even smaller number of individuals who would be able to issue directives to them.
The White House has downplayed any connection to Stone’s actions however. Stone’s arrest “has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Friday.
“The indictment today does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else. Rather, the indictment focuses on alleged false statements Mr. Stone made to Congress,” attorney for President Trump, Jay Sekulow, told CNN in a statement.
Stone was charged with seven counts in all: one count of obstructing a federal investigation, five counts of making false statements and one count of witness tampering. Stone appeared at his arraignment in a Washington, D.C. courtroom yesterday where he entered a plea of not guilty.
His next court appearance will be on Friday before Judge Amy Berman Jackson in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Jackson is also presiding over the case brought by federal prosecutors against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Photo by Marco Verch via Flickr