WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, the longtime adviser to President Donald Trump who has a lengthy and storied history in Republican Party politics, was charged Friday in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation with lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks and witness tampering.
The indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, on Thursday was unsealed early Friday morning. Stone was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday and made his first court appearance there. He faces one count of obstructing Congress, five counts of making false statements to Congress, and one count of witness tampering. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the tampering count and up to five years in prison for each of the other charges.
After the hearing, Stone and his lawyers addressed a crowd of reporters and onlookers — with Stone stepping out of the courthouse with his hands raised making the double-peace sign gesture made famous by former president Richard Nixon.
Facing boos from the crowd as he approached the podium and cries of "lock him up" as he spoke, Stone said the charges against him "relate in no way to Russian collusion."
"I am falsely accused of making false statements during my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. That is incorrect," he said. "Any error I made in my testimony would be both immaterial and without intent."
Stone said he will face an arraignment on the charges next week in DC and will plead not guilty to the charges, telling the crowd, "I look forward to being fully and completely vindicated."
He also, indirectly, defended Trump, saying, "[T]here is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself."
Trump meanwhile, indirectly defended Stone, tweeting about the "Greatest Witch Hunt," asserting there was "NO COLLUSION," and referencing the fact that CNN had a camera outside Stone's house this morning when he was arrested.
CNN reporters said they stationed a camera outside Stone's house as part of a stakeout after becoming suspicious that an arrest could be made. The grand jury convened for Mueller's investigation had met on Thursday — an unusual practice that had preceded an earlier indictment.
Stone has been saying he was “prepared” to face an indictment from Mueller, who has been investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign had any involvement in those efforts, since May 2017. His lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday.
The indictment accuses Stone of lying to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence when he testified in September 2017 about what he knew and who he communicated with about documents stolen via hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chair during the 2016 election.
Prosecutors claim Stone lied or gave misleading information to the House on a number of subjects, including saying he didn't have documents about the hacked materials — he did, according to charging papers; saying he hadn't directed associates to contact WikiLeaks — he had, according to messages quoted in the indictment; and saying he hadn't discussed his conversations with an intermediary about WikiLeaks with the Trump campaign — he told senior campaign officials about information WikiLeaks had on "multiple occasions," prosecutors alleged.
Stone is also accused of trying to convince one of his then-associates, referred to as "Person 2," to lie to Congress in order to align their stories. A lawyer for former Stone associate Randy Credico confirmed that Credico is "Person 2"; he declined to comment further. Credico testified before the grand jury in September 2018.
Prosecutors say that in December 2017, as Credico faced a congressional subpoena to testify, Stone asked Credico to do a "Frank Pentangeli" — a reference to a character in the Mafia movie The Godfather: Part II who was cooperating with law enforcement but then gave false testimony before Congress after his brother was threatened.
The indictment also details that Stone also had only told the House about one intermediary's contacts with WikiLeaks, but Mueller's office alleges that Stone actually sought assistance from a second person earlier, referred to as "Person 1," in reaching out to WikiLeaks. Lawyers for Jerome Corsi, who had previously been cooperating with Mueller’s office but later said he expected to be indicted by Mueller, confirmed on Friday afternoon that Corsi is "Person 1."
On Friday, however, Corsi's lawyers also said in their statement that their client "fully cooperated with the Special Counsel" and "is not being accused of any illegality." Corsi, a purveyor of conspiracy theories best known for his efforts to push the false "birther" claims against former president Barack Obama, worked for InfoWars, run by Alex Jones, for a period of time as the head of its DC bureau.
In a statement responding to the indictment and arrest of Stone, Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said, "The indictment today does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else. Rather, the indictment focuses on alleged false statements Mr. Stone made to Congress."
Stone was a close adviser to Trump in the early days of his campaign, and though Stone formally left the campaign before the first votes were cast, leaving in August 2015, he was never more than a phone call away.
When there were whispers of an effort to keep the nomination from Trump at the Republican National Convention in spring 2016, Stone announced that he would be staging protests — “#DaysofRage,” as he put it — to fight back and keep the party from “stealing” the nomination from Trump. Of course, no serious effort to prevent Trump from getting the nomination took place, and the #DaysofRage never happened.
After the convention, as the general election race between Trump and Hillary Clinton began in earnest, Stone went in a different direction: Guccifer 2.0, which the special counsel’s office has alleged is operated by Russian military intelligence (GRU), and WikiLeaks.
In June 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced that it had been hacked by the Russian government. In the months leading up to the election, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails stolen from the DNC and from the email account of Clinton's campaign chair John Podesta. Beginning in mid-August 2016, Stone started communicating with Guccifer 2.0, who had taken credit for the hack of the DNC's computers.
The indictment alleges that Stone spoke to unnamed "senior Trump Campaign officials" over the summer about "Organization 1" — WikiLeaks, based on the description — and about information WikiLeaks had that could hurt Clinton's campaign. Prosecutors claimed that the senior campaign officials were in touch with Stone to ask about "future releases."
The charging papers quote emails that Stone allegedly sent in July and August 2016 about communicating with WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, who has been living in Ecuador's embassy in London since seeking asylum in 2012. In one July 25 email, Stone allegedly wrote Corsi, "Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly."
Another email excerpted in the indictment, allegedly sent to Stone on Aug. 2 by Corsi, read: "Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging."
In August, Stone tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.” The tweet, which appeared to be a reference to Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, didn’t make much sense at the time. Stone has claimed it related to allegations involving Podesta’s business ties to Russia, but later, of course, it turned out that Podesta’s emails also had been hacked.
The indictment notes that in mid-August, Stone publicly denied that he had direct contact with WikiLeaks. Prosecutors alleged that Stone continued to be in touch with campaign officials about WikiLeaks and "intended future releases."
In a Sept. 18, 2016, text message to Credico quoted in the indictment, Stone allegedly wrote: "I am e-mailing u a request to pass on to [the head of Organization 1]." Prosecutors say Stone then emailed Credico with an article about Clinton, writing: "Please ask [the head of Organization 1] for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30 — particularly on August 20, 2011 that mention [the subject of the article] or confirm this narrative."
In October 2016, as Stone was tweeting publicly about WikiLeaks, the indictment alleges he was making statements privately about upcoming document releases. On Oct. 3, Stone wrote to an unnamed person involved in Trump's campaign, "Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming," according to charging papers.
That same day, when a reporter with connections to what prosecutors described as a "high-ranking Trump Campaign official" asked Stone what Assange had and said they hoped "it's good," Stone allegedly replied, "It is. I’d tell [the high-ranking Trump Campaign official] but he doesn’t call me back."
On Oct. 3, Stone tweeted, “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.” On Oct. 5, he went further: “Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming #Lockthemup.”
On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks published the first of the emails hacked from Podesta. Prosecutors said Stone claimed credit for "correctly predicting" the release to senior Trump campaign officials.
Throughout the course of the special counsel’s investigation, many Stone associates have been called to testify before the grand jury and otherwise talk with Mueller’s team about a variety of matters.
Jason Sullivan, a social media specialist who worked with Stone, testified in early June 2018. John Kakanis, who had worked as Stone’s driver and accountant, was also called to testify. Kristin Davis, a woman who had been known as the Manhattan Madam and had worked for Stone during the campaign, also testified. Andrew Miller, another assistant to Stone, turned over documents and was ordered to testify — but Miller challenged the special counsel’s authority to subpoena him, a case that was appealed to the DC Circuit last year with no apparent resolution.
When Credico made his appearance before the grand jury last fall, he brought along his dog Bianca. In the indictment, prosecutors quoted increasingly hostile emails that Stone and Credico exchanged in 2018, including one where Stone said he would, "take that dog away from you." Stone called Credico a "rat" and a "stoolie," and said his lawyers are "are dying [to] Rip you to shreds." Credico told Stone that Stone had opened himself "up to perjury charges like an idiot."
Just this past week, however, InfoWars — the conservative website run by Alex Jones that traffics in conspiracy theories — published a story that itself appeared to be an attempt to get ahead of Washington Post reporting on Stone’s connections with Jones and Corsi and the trio’s alleged connections to WikiLeaks. The Washington Post published that story on Jan. 24.
Thursday’s indictment was only the latest step in a political career for Stone that began before — but certainly involved — Watergate.
More than a decade ago, Jeffrey Toobin wrote in a 2008 profile of Stone in the New Yorker: “For nearly forty years, Stone has hovered around Republican and national politics, both near the center and at the periphery. … While the Republican Party usually claims Ronald Reagan as its inspiration, Stone represents the less discussed but still vigorous legacy of Richard Nixon, whose politics reflected a curious admixture of anti-Communism, social moderation, and tactical thuggery.”
Stone found a way into the story of Nixon’s Watergate, worked on Reagan’s campaign, set up shop with Paul Manafort to lobby in Washington, figured into the drama of the 2000 recount in Florida. Trump’s campaign, however, was the first high-profile moment Stone had had for some time.
“I like to take long shots,” Stone told a Washington Post reporter back in a 1986 profile. “I like to take risks.”
The headline: “The Rise and Gall of Roger Stone.”
Hazel Shearing contributed to this report.