Roger Stone pleads not guilty to federal charges
Former Trump adviser accused of lying to lawmakers and witness tampering
Roger Stone, a longtime confidant and adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges in the Russia investigation after a publicity-filled few days spent torching the probe as politically motivated.
The political operative and self-proclaimed dirty trickster appeared for his arraignment at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. He faces charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible co-ordination between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Stone made no public statements as he arrived for the hearing in a black SUV. He waved to a small crowd of supporters chanting that he did nothing wrong and holding up photos of him. And he largely ignored a group of protesters yelling "Lock him up" and carrying signs reading "dirty traitor."
During a brief hearing Tuesday, Stone spoke only once, rising to his feet to say, "Yes, Your Honour," 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.
Special counsel Robert 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.
A self-described dirty trickster, Stone is the sixth Trump aide charged in Mueller's investigation.
Since his arrest on Friday, Stone staged an impromptu news conference outside a Florida courthouse, made the rounds on weekend television and repeatedly mocked the probe on an Instagram account, including with a cartoonish-image of Mueller as a bowtie-wearing butler holding a tray with a hamburger roll — but no meat in between.
The indictment does not accuse Stone of co-ordinating 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.
Stone, who has alleged without evidence that the FBI used "Gestapo tactics" in arresting him, said he did nothing more than exercise his First Amendment rights to drum up interest with voters about the WikiLeaks disclosures. He said he never discussed 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.
Long-standing relationship with Trump
Stone is the latest Trump associate charged criminally for various charges, which have included lying to Congress or the FBI, bank and tax fraud, and failing to register as a foreign agent for lobbying purposes. The list also includes his former presidential campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's colleague, Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
While Trump has tried to downplay his personal relationship with some of those men, the relationship between Stone and Trump stretches back decades.
The real estate tycoon was a client of the lobbying firm Black, Manafort and Stone beginning in the 1980s, and admitted in the recent documentary Get Me Roger Stone that the Republican operative has long groomed him for a run for political office.
Stone was often by Trump's side as he talked up a possible 2000 bid for president as a candidate of the Reform Party.
In 2015, he was on board as Trump launched his bid for president as a Republican, but left the campaign under unclear circumstances in August that year, soon after Corey Lewandowski took over as campaign chair.
But as details of the indictment made clear, Stone was regularly in touch with Trump campaign officials through the election and into the transition.
Trump as recently as December was defending Stone and praising his apparent unwillingness to co-operate with authorities.
"Nice to know some people still have guts," Trump exclaimed.
With files from CBC News