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Roger Stone, a political consultant and longtime ally to President Donald Trump, was arrested at his Florida home by FBI agents early Friday morning on charges of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress. He is accused of interfering in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The indictment came from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Stone was scheduled to appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida today. He will likely be arraigned in Washington D.C. sometime next week. His attorney, Grant Smith, told Politico that Stone will plead not guilty.
The White House was quick to distance themselves from the situation. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Stone’s arrest “has nothing to do with the president.”
President Trump tweeted about the arrest, “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Roger Stone is Accused of Lying to Congress About His Knowledge of WikiLeaks’ Plans to Release Emails Stolen From the Clinton Campaign
Stone has long been a subject of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, particularly because of his connection to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. According to the 24-page indictment, Stone was allegedly aware that Wikileaks had acquired “information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.” You can read the entire 24-page indictment embedded above.
The indictment goes on to say that “senior Trump campaign officials” urged Stone to keep them informed about upcoming Wikileaks releases. Wikileaks is referred to as “Organization 1” in the document.
Roger Stone’s legal issues center around testimony he made to Congress. He testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee on September 26, 2017, which was investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone is accused of lying to the committee about his interactions with Wikileaks and “falsely denied possessing records that contained evidence of these interactions.”
In that hearing, Stone denied knowing in advance that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had been hacked and that Wikileaks planned to release the stolen emails. Page 11 of the indictment reads:
In his opening statement, STONE stated, “These hearings are largely based on a yet unproven allegation that the Russian state is responsible for the hacking of the DNC and [the Clinton Campaign chairman] and the transfer of that information to [Organization 1].” STONE further stated that “[m]embers of this Committee” had made certain “assertions against me which must be rebutted here today,” which included “[t]he charge that I knew in advance about, and predicted, the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman[’s] email, [and] that I had advanced knowledge of the source or actual content of the [Organization 1] disclosures regarding Hillary Clinton.”
2. Indictment: Roger Stone Exchanged Emails About Upcoming WikiLeaks Dumps With ‘Person 1,’ a ‘Political Commentator With an Online Media Publication’
GettyFormer Donald Trump Adviser, Roger Stone, listens to host Jonathan Alter talk during an episode of Alter Family Politics on SiriusXM at Quicken Loans Arena on July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Roger Stone denied having possession of emails that proved he had been in contact with Julian Assange, or had discussed with others Wikileaks’ plans to release Clinton campaign emails. One example of such an email, listed in the indictment, is a message Stone received on August 2, 2016, from “Person 1.” It read in part: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.” The “friend in embassy” is Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012.
That same email, from “Person 1” to Stone, also included:
“Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke – neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”
“Person 1” is identified in the indictment as “a political commentator who worked with an online media publication during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Person 1 spoke regularly with STONE throughout the campaign, including about the release of stolen documents by Organization 1.”
According to prosecutors, Stone sent an email on October 3, 2016, “to the supporter involved with the Trump Campaign” that “the payload is still coming.’” Stone also allegedly shared that Wikileaks was planning to release “a load every week going forward.”
Between October 7 and November 7 of 2016, Wikileaks released “over 50,000 stolen documents” that had been “stolen from the personal email account of the Clinton Campaign chairman.” The campaign chairman was John Podesta. Another clue that Stone allegedly knew ahead of time that Wikileaks would release these stolen documents came from his own Twitter feed. In a since-deleted tweet posted on August 21, 2016, Stone wrote that it would soon be “Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Podesta reacted to Stone’s arrest with his own Twitter post on Friday morning. He wrote that it was “Rogers’s time in the barrel—and it’s headed over Niagara Falls.”
3. Stone Faces Seven Federal Charges Including Obstruction & Making False Statements; He is Also Accused of Encouraging Another Witness to Either Lie to Congress or Plead the Fifth
Roger Stone is charged on seven counts. Count One is listed as “Obstruction of Proceeding.” This charge stemmed from the testimony he gave before Congress.
Counts 2-6 have are for making false statements. Stone is accused of lying about possessing emails discussing Julian Assange, being in direct contact with Assange, and discussing planned Wikileaks dumps with a senior member of the Trump campaign.
Count 7 is witness tampering. Stone is accused of trying to intimidate a witness who had also allegedly been in contact with Assange: radio host Randy Credico, who is referenced as “Person 2” in the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Stone “attempted to persuade a witness to provide false testimony to and withhold pertinent information from the investigations.” Stone allegedly pushed Credico to “testify falsely” before Congress or to refuse to testify by “invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.” In communications with “Person 2,” Stone made a reference to the “Godfather” movies. Stone also stated that he would not be able to invoke his own fifth amendment rights, presumably because of his relationship with President Trump. That part of the indictment on page 19 reads:
“On multiple occasions, including on or about December 1, 2017, STONE told Person 2 that Person 2 should do a “Frank Pentangeli” before HPSCI in order to avoid contradicting STONE’s testimony. Frank Pentangeli is a character in the film The Godfather: Part II, which both STONE and Person 2 had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims not to know critical information that he does in fact know.
On or about December 1, 2017, STONE texted Person 2, “And if you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.” Later that day, Person 2 texted STONE, “You need to amend your testimony before I testify on the 15th.” STONE responded, “If you testify you’re a fool. Because of tromp I could never get away with a certain
[sic] my Fifth Amendment rights but you can. I guarantee you you are the one who gets indicted for perjury if you’re stupid enough to testify.”
Stone’s attorney, Grant Smith, told CNN that he was confident Stone would be found innocent of the charges. He told the network, “They found no Russian collusion or they would have charged him with it. Roger Stone is vindicated by the fact there was no Russian collusion.”
4. Report: Roger Stone Answered the Door For FBI Agents Wearing His Pajamas
Roger Stone clearly did not know the arrest was imminent. According to CNN, which captured the arrest on camera and is embedded above, Stone answered the door wearing his pajamas and glasses. Agents arrived at Stone’s home in Fort Lauderdale before 6 a.m. on January 25, 2019. In the video, you can hear an agent pound on the door and shout, “FBI! Open the door!”
Former professional football player Chad Johnson, who used to play for the Cincinnati Bengals and now lives in Fort Lauderdale, is a neighbor of Stone’s and witnessed the arrest. He shared on Twitter, “FBI arrested my neighbor Roger before my morning jog, I’ve only seen sh*t like that in movies, crazy to start to my Friday.”
5. Sarah Sanders: Roger Stone’s Arrest Has ‘Nothing to do With the President’
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spoke with reporters after Roger Stone’s arrest. She stated that Stone’s arrest has “nothing to do with the president” or the White House.
A reporter was heard asking Sanders whether President Trump had encouraged Stone to lie to investigators. On December 3, 2018, President Trump praised Stone over Twitter for his alleged refusal to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The tweet read, “‘I will never testify against Trump.’ This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”
Sanders dismissed this assertion. “That is probably one of the more ridiculous and insulting questions to accuse the President of the United States of asking someone to break the law. That is, frankly, it’s just insulting, it’s just not true.”