Roger Stone, President Trump's informal longtime adviser, has been charged as part of the special counsel investigation over his communications with WikiLeaks, the organization behind the release of thousands of stolen Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign.
FBI agents woke and arrested Stone before dawn Friday at his Fort Lauderdale home. According to the New York Times, agents were also "seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Mr. Stone’s apartment in Harlem."
In the 24-page grand jury indictment, Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering, according to Robert Mueller's Special Counsel Office.
Though it does not mention WikiLeaks by name, referring to the group instead as "Organization 1," the indictment makes it clear that the outfit, headed by Julian Assange, is at the heart of the case.
The indictment does not accuse Stone of coordinating with the Russian government's election interference in 2016, the key matter under investigation in the probe. But it does lay out in detail Stone's conversations about stolen Democratic emails posted by WikiLeaks in the weeks before Trump beat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mueller's office has said those emails, belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were hacked by Russian intelligence officers.
The indictment came as no surprise. Stone has said for months he was prepared to be charged, though he has denied any wrongdoing. For months a grand jury 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.
"This doesn't have anything to do with the president. It doesn't have anything to do with the White House," @PressSec Sarah Sanders says of Roger Stone being indicted in Mueller probe. https://t.co/6OI3qetWP6 pic.twitter.com/0eHz8gB48k
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 25, 2019
Stone has publicly denigrated the Mueller investigation and echoed the president's descriptions of it as a witch hunt. But he has long attracted investigators' attention, especially in light of a 2016 tweet that appeared to presage knowledge that emails stolen from Podesta would soon be released. Stone has said he had no inside information about the contents of the emails in WikiLeaks' possession or the timing of when they'd be released.
At 11:15 a.m. Friday Stone was inside a federal courtroom in Fort Lauderdale, wearing a blue polo, his hair uncharacteristically disheveled. The gallery was overflowing when the judge released Stone on a $25,000 bond.
When approached by reporters,Stone’s lawyer, Grant Smith, dismissed the charges, calling them “ridiculous,” and said, “this is all about a minor charge about lying to Congress about something that was apparently found later.
“The only reason Mr. Stone was charged is his 40-year friendship with the president and his efforts to defeat the person who was anointed by the establishment."
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith. This breaking story was largely gathered from morning news reports.