Looks like it’s Roger Stone’s time in the barrel. The president’s old friend and longtime political adviser was indicted in the special counsel probe late Thursday on seven counts, including one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering, according to the special counsel’s office. He was arrested Friday morning.
The longtime political provocateur and self-named “dirty trickster,” who cut his teeth working for Richard Nixon and served as a political adviser to Donald Trump, has long been of interest to the special counsel regarding his connection to the Russian hack of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and the publication by WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of stolen documents.
Throughout that summer, Stone engaged in a sort of social media performance art, wherein he bragged on Twitter about knowing in advance that damaging information from the campaign was coming and that he had perhaps played a role as conduit. He claimed at the time that he was in contact with the group’s founder, Julian Assange. He changed his story multiple times, as investigators questioned those around him, saying he spoke to them through an intermediary. Last year, it emerged he’d been in contact with Guccifer 2.0, an account operated by Russian military officers who coordinated the hack. Stone started to claim in recent months that he would be indicted as part of a witch hunt, and also that he would never turn on the president.
The indictment alleges that the 12 Russians engaged in a sustained effort to hack Democrats and aides to Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. It also alleges that “during the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Wikileaks and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Wikileaks.”* The indictment also claims that Stone made multiple false statements about his interactions regarding WikiLeaks, falsely denied possessing records that contained evidence of these interactions, and attempted to persuade a witness to provide false testimony to and withhold pertinent information from the investigations.
Mueller and his team of prosecutors have now indicted 33 individuals and three Russian businesses on charges ranging from computer hacking to false statements to conspiracy and financial crimes. It is believed the investigation is entering its final stages.
The special counsel’s office said Stone will make an initial appearance at 11 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow at the federal courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. An attorney for Stone told Politico that he expected his client would be released after the appearance and return the next week to plead not guilty.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to reporters’ questions about the arrest Friday by arguing that Stone had done little different from the news organizations that reported about WikiLeaks. “Does that mean CNN is guilty of collusion?” she asked the reporters. She reiterated: “This has nothing to do with the president.”
Update, Jan. 25, 2019 at 9:10 a.m.: This post has been updated with information from Stone’s lawyer and statements by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Correction, Jan. 25, 2019: This post originally misquoted the special counsel indictment as making the claim that Roger Stone spoke to Trump campaign officials about Wikipedia and information it may have had about the Hillary Clinton campaign. The indictment actually states he spoke to Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks.