Roger Stone's D.C. Arraignment in Mueller Probe Draws Crowd - Rolling Stone
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Roger Stone’s D.C. Arraignment Was an Online Comments Section Brought to Life

Trolls, Proud Boys, non sequiturs, oh my

Donald Trump's longtime friend and confidant Roger Stone, leaves Federal Court, in Washington. Stone left the federal courthouse without speaking publicly after entering a not guilty plea to charges filed in the special counsel's Russia investigationTrump Russia Probe Stone, Washington, USA - 29 Jan 2019

Donald Trump's longtime friend and confidant Roger Stone leaves Federal Court in Washington, D.C. after his arraignment.

Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Inside the Washington, D.C., federal courthouse Tuesday morning, the scene was somber and official.

Roger Stone, the onetime adviser to President Donald Trump and master of the dark arts of politics dating back to Watergate, sat at the defense’s table inside Courtroom 3. Stone had come to D.C. for his arraignment after a grand jury convened by Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted him last week on seven counts of making false statements, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. He wore one of his more demure bespoke suits for the occasion, and watched silently as his lawyer entered a not-guilty plea.

The hearing lasted all of 15 minutes. “Yes, your honor,” Stone replied when the judge asked him if he understood the conditions of his release. After the proceeding ended, he did little but smile at the scrum of journalists and cameramen peppering him with questions as he exited the courtroom. It was a rare sight: Roger Stone, subdued.

The same could not be said for the throngs of people outside the courthouse waiting for him to appear. There were Stone supporters and Stone haters, Mueller fans and Mueller detractors, right- and left-wing media personalities, members of the violent Proud Boys group, live-streamers galore and a man covering the event for InfoWars, the media company run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, on whose show Stone is a frequent guest. One woman carried a sign that read “Roger Stone did nothing wrong!” with a photo of Stone flashing Richard Nixon’s double peace signs and a link to Stone’s legal defense fund.

“Do you realize his dad avoided half a billion dollars in taxes?” an anti-Stone protester asked a pro-Stone attendee wearing a camouflage Make America Great Again hat. “The New York Times did a huge story on this like three months ago.”

“That’s called being smart,” the MAGA-hat-wearer said.

Rival chants filled the air. “Lock him up!” “We love Roger!” “Free Roger!” Two women, one holding an anti-Mueller sign and the other a sign that read “Free Stone, Jail Hillary,” began talking about how Mueller had turned the country into a police state, and how we should all be concerned about how out-of-control the special counsel’s investigation has become. A man wearing a conductor’s hat pushed through the crowd with a sign promoting a website that offers a “DC Black History Night Tour.”

The tableau was beyond bizarre: Alt-right trolls, conspiracy theorists, elderly women in fur coats fiercely defending Stone’s innocence, heated debates between people operating under different sets of facts and of course, a few simply trying to make a buck. 

When Stone finally did appear, it was through a different door than the one surrounded by the cameramen and the protesters. He beat a hasty exit across the sidewalk and climbed into an idling black SUV, leaving in its exhaust a street full of cameras, reporters and demonstrators. As Stone sped off, a pair of protesters hoisted large Russian flags and blasted the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR” followed by the Russian national anthem at a high volume from a portable speaker.

There they stood on the curb, grinning with their flags gently waving in the breeze, the anthem playing (“Russia is our sacred state / Russia is our beloved land”) for all to hear. As the crowd began to disperse, the InfoWars correspondent started screaming about Mueller, and behind him the tour promoter and two older women carrying “Free Stone” signs competed for space in front of the few cameras that remained.

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