WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury has indicted Donald Trump associate Roger Stone on charges of lying about his role in Russian meddling during the 2016 election designed to benefit Trump’s campaign, Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced Friday.
Stone has been arrested and faces a court appearance later today, it added.
“The indictment, which was unsealed upon arrest, contains seven counts: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering,” Mueller’s office said in a statement.
Stone, a veteran political consultant and long-time adviser to Trump, has repeatedly said he is innocent and that Mueller is conducting a vendetta against him and the president.
The latest indictment in the Mueller investigation lays out, for the first time, investigators’ understanding of effort by the Trump campaign to learn about the website WikiLeaks’ plans to release damaging information about Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton; prosecutors say that information was stolen by Russian intelligence seeking to influence the election on Trump’s behalf.
The allegations revolve around Stone’s alleged contacts with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign.
“During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign,” the indictment said. “STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.”
Organization 1 is a reference to WikiLeaks.
All of the charges center on allegations that he lied to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation of Russian election interference, and that he tried to conceal emails and other records the committee had requested.
Stone is accused of lying about his contacts with WikiLeaks, including dealings with website founder Julian Assange, as well as interactions with members of the Trump campaign about stolen emails.
Among the allegations, according to the indictment:
– In the summer of 2016, a ”senior” official on Trump’s campaign was “directed to contact Stone” to learn about any other damaging information the organization had on Clinton’s campaign.
– On Oct. 3 of that same year, Stone emailed an unnamed person involved with the campaign to give them a heads-up about another release of information: “Spoke to my friend in London last night,” he wrote, a reference to Assange. “The payload is still coming.”
– After an Assange news conference on Oct. 4, one in which he did not provide any new materials about Clinton, the unnamed Trump campaign official emailed Stone to ask about whether the organization would be releasing more documents.
“A load every week going forward,” Stone replied.
The indictment makes repeated references to Trump’s campaign, but doesn’t accuse the president himself or other officials of wrongdoing.
The president, who has denied any sort of collusion with the Russians during the election, has attacked Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.” Trump has also criticized the investigation’s impact on his friends. Mueller, who has obtained indictments against Russians in connection with the plot to interfere in the 2016 election, made his first public indictment of an American.
The grand jury returned the indictment on Thursday; on Friday, CNN filmed Stone’s arrest at his Fort Lauderdale home shortly after 6 in the morning.
Stone will make an initial appearance in federal court at 11 a.m. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Mueller and the special counsel’s office has obtained indictments or convictions of at least 32 people, including four connected to Trump’s campaign: Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman; Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy; Michael Flynn, a campaign aide as well as, briefly, the National Security Adviser in the White House; and George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser.
In addition, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to tax evasion, lying to a bank and campaign finance violations that he said Trump was involved in. Cohen has spoken with investigators on Mueller’s team.
Stone made his reputation as a self-described “dirty trickster” in a career that stretches back to the President Richard Nixon administration (Stone has a large tattoo of Nixon on his back).
As far back as a May interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Stone said he was prepared to be indicted, and he criticized the investigation.
“This was supposed to be about Russian collusion,” Stone said, “and it appears to be an effort to silence or punish the president’s supporters and his advocates.”