South Florida

‘Dirty trickster’ Stone vows to fight charges filed by Mueller in Trump investigation

For a guy who got rousted out of bed Friday morning by FBI agents, Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone was as pugnacious as ever when he walked out of the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse in the afternoon with his arms raised and fingers flashing “V” signs.

While some spectators chanted “Roger, Roger, Roger,” others booed and shouted “lock him up, lock him up.”

The courthouse stage was likely a surreal moment for the flamboyant political operative who has seen it all in a career dating back to the Nixon era.

Stone, a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster,” appeared defiant as he declared his innocence after being released on bond following his arrest Friday morning. He is charged with obstructing justice, tampering with a witness and lying to Congress in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.

Stone, dressed in a navy blue polo shirt and jeans, told a throng of news media members and spectators outside the courthouse that Mueller’s investigation was “politically motivated” and that he had been “falsely accused” of lying to the House Intelligence Committee.

The behind-the-scenes Trump adviser also declared he would not make any deal with the special counsel to testify against Trump, saying “there 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.”

“I look forward to being fully and completely vindicated,” Stone, 66, said.

The seven-count indictment filed against Stone reveals fresh details on how Trump campaign associates in the summer of 2016 actively sought the release of emails that the special counsel says were hacked by Russian officers and then provided to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The indictment says unidentified senior Trump campaign officials contacted Stone to ask when stolen emails relating to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might be disclosed.

Mueller’s case alleges coverups and deception by Stone — not that he conspired with WikiLeaks or with the Russian officers accused of hacking the emails. Stone, instead, is accused of lying to congressional members in a May 2017 letter and in his September 2017 testimony about WikiLeaks’ activities. He is also accused of obstructing a congressional probe into whether the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia to sabotage the U.S. election to help him beat Clinton, as well as being accused of tampering with a congressional witness.

The indictment says Stone repeatedly discussed WikiLeaks with Trump campaign associates and details his conversations about emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted online in the weeks before Trump defeated Clinton.

Prosecutors allege that Stone shared information about WikiLeaks’ strategy with Trump campaign associates, including senior aide Steve Bannon. The indictment says Stone exchanged emails with Bannon, who is referred to as a “high-ranking Trump campaign official.”

In addition, the indictment delves into what prosecutors say were Stone’s false statements to lawmakers about his conversations with Jerome Corsi, a conservative writer and conspiracy theorist, and Randy Credico, a New York radio host. They are identified in the indictment as “Person 1” and “Person 2,” respectively.

The indictment accuses Stone of carrying out a “prolonged effort” to keep Credico from contradicting Stone’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Prosecutors claim that Stone repeatedly told Credico to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’ ‘’ referring to the character in the “The Godfather: Part II” who lies before Congress. Stone is also accused of threatening Credico as well as his dog, Bianca.

On Friday, Trump and his defense team blasted Stone’s indictment. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said it “does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or by anyone else.” Trump called the investigation the “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country!”

During his brief hearing in Fort Lauderdale federal court after his arrest, Stone was granted a $250,000 bond that was jointly recommended by U.S. prosecutors and his defense team.

Stone was shackled around the waist, wrist and ankles during his first appearance before Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow. The courtroom was packed with journalists and spectators, while dozens of TV news cameramen and photographers waited outside the courthouse.

Stone thanked the judge after she granted his bond, which restricts his travel to South Florida, Washington, D.C., New York City, and the eastern area of Virginia.

News media gather outside the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale late Friday morning, awaiting the release of Roger Stone on bond following his arrest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Jay Weaver

The judge asked Stone to surrender his passport as a condition of his bond. He told her that he does not own a current passport because his had expired.

Prosecutors Jared Strauss and Aaron Zelinsky with the U.S. attorney’s office in South Florida also requested that Stone undergo a substance-abuse screening. The judge ordered one as part of his bond conditions.

Stone’s arraignment date must still be set in the federal court in Washington, D.C. In the meantime, Stone will be able to stay at his Fort Lauderdale home as he awaits trial. Stone’s defense team consists of Fort Lauderdale lawyers Bruce Rogow, Tara Campion, Robert Buschel and Grant Smith.

Outside the courthouse, Rogow, the most prominent member of Stone’s team, called the FBI’s early morning arrest of the longtime GOP political operative a “spectacle.”

“Everyone knows where Roger Stone is; he’s not in hiding,” Rogow said. “The spectacle this morning with the SWAT team breaking into his house, searching the house, scaring his wife, scaring his dogs, completely unnecessary. A telephone call would have done the job, and Mr. Stone would have appeared.”

Stone himself described the scene at his Fort Lauderdale home, saying 29 FBI agents in 17 vehicles with flashing lights arrived at the crack of dawn to arrest him. He said “they could have simply contacted my attorneys and I would have been more than willing to surrender voluntarily.”

Stone is the sixth Trump aide or adviser — and the 34th person overall — charged by Mueller. The nearly two-year-old probe has exposed multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the presidential campaign and transition period. It has revealed efforts by several people to conceal those communications, including the latest allegations against Stone.

“I will plead not guilty to these charges,” Stone said after his release from federal custody Friday. “I will defeat them in court.”

Information from the Associated Press was used to supplement this story.

Related stories from Miami Herald