The lies appear to have finally caught up to Roger Stone.
On Friday morning, the former Trump adviser and longtime Republican operative was indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s coordination with Russia during the 2016 election. Stone was charged with seven counts — including obstruction of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress — stemming from his connection to WikiLeaks, the organization that published thousands of hacked Democratic emails prior to the 2016 election.
The pre-dawn arrest was made in dramatic fashion, with armed federal agents storming Stone’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
CNN has footage of the FBI agents swarming Roger Stone’s home before sunrise this morning: pic.twitter.com/owGSNmgTil
— J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) January 25, 2019
A few hours after the arrest took place, President Trump weighed in on Twitter. “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION!” the president wrote. “Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?”
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?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2019
“Our reporters who cover this story everyday noticed unusual activity at Grand Jury and went to his home,” wrote CNN anchor Jim Sciutto in response to speculation that the network was tipped off by the special counsel’s office. “That’s good journalism … Not a tip. And anyone who covers Mueller knows Mueller’s office does not tip.”
Kristin Davis, known as the “Manhattan Madam,” told the network Friday morning that authorities also raided the New York duplex she shares with Stone, who later on Friday was released on a $250,000 personal assurance bond. He will not be permitted to travel anywhere outside of Florida, New York or Washington, D.C., for court appearance.
A text to Roger Stone from Rolling Stone seeking comment was not immediately answered.
The 24-page indictment contains a trove of allegations about Stone’s relationship to WikiLeaks and to the Trump campaign, many of which directly contradict statements Stone has made in the past, both to the media and to the special counsel’s office. The indictment alleges that Stone “made multiple false statements” to investigators regarding his contact with WikiLeaks (referred to in the indictment as “Organization 1”), that he “falsely denied possessing records that contained evidence of these interactions” and that he “attempted to persuade a witness to provide false testimony.”
Stone’s narrative regarding his involvement with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign has shifted many times, but the indictment lays out a clear, incriminating timeline of events, beginning in summer of 2016, when Stone allegedly spoke to multiple senior Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks “and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.” The Trump campaign followed up with Stone to inquire about potential information dumps.
On July 22nd, WikiLeaks released a cache of Democratic National Committee emails that had been hacked by Russia. Following the release, a senior official in the Trump campaign was directed to contact Stone about “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks might possess. Stone informed the official of “potential future releases.”
This is the most intriguing line of the Roger Stone indictment. "A senior Trump
Campaign official WAS DIRECTED to contact Stone". Who directed the official? Mueller knows. He knows all about the Campaign's inner workings. pic.twitter.com/uBKIEpM69k
— Arieh Kovler (@ariehkovler) January 25, 2019
It’s not clear which senior official was directed to contact Stone, nor is it clear whether the special counsel’s office knows who gave that directive. It’s certainly possible, if not likely, that it was Trump. When asked on Friday the president told the senior official to reach out to Stone, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that she’s “not an attorney” while claiming the indictment has nothing to do with the president.
One anonymous senior official mentioned in the indictment that has been identified is Steve Bannon, who joined the campaign in August. According to the special counsel, Stone was contacted on October 4th by “a high-ranking official,” reported on Friday to be Bannon, about the “status of future releases” by WikiLeaks. Stone told the campaign official that WikiLeaks would release “a load every week going forward.” Three days later, WikiLeaks released the first set of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails that had been hacked by Russia. After the release, an “associate” of the high-ranking Trump campaign official sent a text to Stone. “Well done,” it read.
Though the indictment refers only to senior officials in the Trump campaign, Stone has said previously that he was in direct contact with Trump in the months leading up to the election. Regardless of whether the president himself knew in advance that WikiLeaks planned to release information damaging to his opponent that had been illegally obtained by Russia, he sure was a big fan of organization.
Flashback to the campaign.
Trump: "WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks." pic.twitter.com/n09sEnCcBX
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 25, 2019
Democratic lawmakers have responded largely by pointing out how suspicious it is that Trump chose to surround himself with so many criminals or figures who have been accused of criminal activity. “#RogerStone worked overtime to get his hands on Russian-hacked emails to help @realDonaldTrump,” wrote Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). “Then Stone took out the shovels to bury and hide his dirty deeds from investigators. Put this in context with all the others eager to work with Russians. This was a campaign of cheats.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who for weeks has been squaring off with the president over the government shutdown, expressed a need to find the truth while questioning Trump’s connection to Russia. “It is very interesting to see the kinds of people that the president of the United States has surrounded himself with,” she told reporters. “This connection to the integrity of our elections is something we have to get the truth about. It’s also bothersome to see his connections to Russia and the president’s suggestions that we should question whether we should be in NATO, which is a dream come true for Vladimir Putin.”
As Democratic lawmakers implied and as Supreme Court lawyer Neal Katyal wrote following the arrest, there has to reach a point where it’s no longer a coincidence that the president surrounded himself with so many criminals.
A simple 3 step guide to understanding the morning’s news:
1. Read tweet below
2. Read Mueller indictment of Roger Stone
3. Ask yourself why a sitting President of the US would have felt compelled to tweet the below. At some point, # of criminals surrounding Trump not coincidence https://t.co/FLxdBDtwkE
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) January 25, 2019
Stone had long been a focal point of the special counsel’s investigation, and many assumed an indictment was inevitable. Stone did, as well, admitting last May that he was “prepared” to be taken into custody. Never once, however, did the self-described “dirty trickster” acknowledge any wrongdoing.
“I have said consistently, for two years, that I had no advance notice of the content, source or exact disclosure schedule for the WikiLeaks material regarding the DNC or Hillary Clinton,” Stone told Rolling Stone last May. “I have said that I had no advance notice of the publication of John Podesta’s emails. I have said that I had no information or involvement in conspiracy or collusion or coordination with the Russian state. No one has produced any evidence to the contrary because there is none. If somebody has proof to the contrary, they should produce it.”
On Friday morning, Special Counsel Mueller obliged. The question now looming is whether Stone will cooperate with Mueller’s investigation and, if so, to what extent. As Katyal noted, Stone has claimed that he “will never testify against” Trump, an assertion the president has praised publicly. He may begin to think differently, however, when confronted with whatever evidence of criminality the special counsel possesses, and which could land the 66-year-old in jail for the rest of his life. For now, Stone doesn’t seem too concerned, emerging from court on Friday with his hands in the air, a-la his hero Richard Nixon.
Stone emerges. pic.twitter.com/TN73Sutcc7
— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) January 25, 2019
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” said Stone, over boos.
This story is developing.