Indictment links Trump campaign, email leaks
The special counsel, Robert Mueller, revealed on Friday the most direct link yet between the Trump campaign’s and WikiLeaks’ parallel efforts to use Democratic Party material stolen by Russians to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
In an indictment unsealed on Friday, the spe- cial counsel disclosed evidence that a top campaign official in 2016 dispatched Roger J. Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, to get information from WikiLeaks about the thousands of hacked Democratic emails. The effort began well after it was widely reported that Russian intelligence operatives were behind the theft, which was part of Moscow’s broad campaign to sabotage the 2016 president election.
The indictment makes no mention of whether Trump played a role in the coordination, though Mueller did leave a curious clue about how high in the campaign the effort reached: A senior campaign official “was directed” by an unnamed person to contact Stone about additional WikiLeaks releases that might damage the Clinton campaign, according to the court document.
Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering. Mueller did not say that Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks were illegal, nor that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the organization.
FBI agents arrested Stone before dawn, appearing at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home with ballistic vests and guns drawn. Agents typically use those tactics as a precaution to secure possible evidence and protect themselves in case a suspect fights arrest. Prosecutors sealed details of the case because they feared that public disclosure would increase the risk of Stone fleeing or destroying or tampering with evidence, according to court documents.
FBI agents were also seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Stone’s apartment in New York City, and his recording studio in South Florida was also raided.
Stone appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning, his ankles and waist shackled in front of a packed courtroom. Stone, known for his dapper wardrobe, was dressed simply in a navy blue cotton polo shirt, bluejeans and his trademark round, black-rimmed glasses, his demeanor flat.
He posted a $250,000 bond, was ordered to surrender his passport and agreed to appear in federal court in Washington later. Afterward, outside the courthouse, Stone vowed to beat the investigation, which he called politically motivated.
“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,” he told reporters afterward.
In a brief interview later Friday, Stone said he will plead not guilty.