Trump confidant Stone pleads not guilty in Russia probe case
Washington – Roger Stone, a longtime adviser and confidant of President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony charges in the Russia investigation after a publicity-filled few days spent slamming the probe as politically motivated.
The political operative and self-described dirty trickster faces charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
He was uncharacteristically quiet during Tuesday’s brief court appearance, rising to his feet to say, “Yes, Your Honor,” as U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson asked if he would agree to the conditions of his release, including restricted travel.
Stone attorney Robert Buschel entered the plea on his client’s behalf.
Stone, 66, made no public statements as he arrived and departed the courthouse amid dueling chants of “Lock Him Up” and “We Love Roger.” Stone waved and smiled to the small crowd, some holding up glowing photos of him, and he largely ignored a group of protesters carrying signs reading “Dirty traitor.”
Stone, who was arrested last week at his Florida home, is the sixth Trump aide charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The indictment does not accuse Stone of coordinating with Russia or with WikiLeaks on the release of hacked Democratic emails. But it does allege that he misled lawmakers about his pursuit of those communications and interest in them. The anti-secrecy website published emails in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election that the U.S. says were stolen from Democrats by Russian operatives.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday that the investigation is “close to being completed,” although an exact timetable is unclear.
Mueller continues to be interested in hearing from Stone aide Andrew Miller, who is fighting a grand jury subpoena, indicating the special counsel could be pursuing additional criminal charges against Stone or others related to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked material during the 2016 election.
Mueller’s team and lawyers with the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia are jointly prosecuting the case against Stone. They did not push for Stone to be jailed or for Robinson to impose a gag order in the case.
He is free on $250,000 bond.
Stone, who has alleged without evidence that the FBI used “Gestapo tactics” in arresting him, has said he did nothing more than exercise his First Amendment rights to drum up interest with voters about the WikiLeaks disclosures. He has also denied discussing the issue with Trump.
“That’s what I engaged in. It’s called politics and they haven’t criminalized it, at least not yet,” Stone said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“All I did was take publicly available information and try to hype it to get it as much attention as possible, because I had a tip, the information was politically significant and that it would come in October,” he added.
Tuesday’s arraignment didn’t inspire the same circus-like atmosphere that surrounded his Friday court appearance in Florida, where Stone emerged from the courthouse in a blue polo shirt, flashed a Richard Nixon victory sign, predicted his vindication and vowed that he would not “bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.”