Friday 15 November 2019

Trump adviser Roger Stone pleads not guilty to Russia probe charges

The political operator walked past pro- and anti-protesters on his way into the courthouse.

Former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, arrives at US federal court (Alex Brandon/AP)
Former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, arrives at US federal court (Alex Brandon/AP)

By Eric Tucker and Chad Day, Associated Press

Roger Stone, a long-time adviser and confidant of President Donald Trump, has pleaded not guilty to charges in the Russia investigation after a publicity-filled few days spent scorning the probe as politically motivated.

The political operative appeared for his arraignment at the US federal courthouse in Washington.

He faces charges that he lied to politicians, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

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Demonstrators make their point (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

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 glowing photos of him.

And he largely ignored a group of protesters yelling “Lock him up” and carrying signs reading “dirty traitor”.

Stone was arrested early Friday at his Florida home.

He appeared in US federal court in Washington amid new signals about special counsel Robert Mueller probe’s endgame.

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Roger Stone arrives at court (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said on Monday that the investigation is “close to being completed”, although an exact timetable is unclear.

Mr Mueller’s continued interest in hearing from Stone aide Andrew Miller, who is fighting the grand jury subpoena, indicates the special counsel could be pursuing additional criminal charges against Stone or others related to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked material during the 2016 election.

Stone is the sixth Trump aide charged in Mr Mueller’s investigation.

The indictment does not accuse Stone of coordinating with Russia or with WikiLeaks on the release of hacked Democratic emails.

It's called politics and they haven't criminalised it, at least not yet Roger Stone

But it does allege that he misled politicians 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 US 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 Mr Trump.

“That’s what I engaged in. It’s called politics and they haven’t criminalised 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.

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