Stone pleads not guilty

Judge or­ders Trump ally not to con­tact wit­nesses

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Kevin John­son

WASH­ING­TON – Roger Stone brought his one-man show to the fed­eral court­house Tues­day, set­ting off from Florida as if it were just an­other tour stop for an un­usual po­lit­i­cal cir­cus.

The fa­mil­iar uni­form was in­tact: natty suit, year-round sun­tan and ice white hair. Yet the man whose love for the mi­cro­phone has few equals fell nearly silent af­ter plead­ing not guilty to seven crim­i­nal counts, in­clud­ing ob­struc­tion and wit­ness tam­per­ing, as part of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s widerang­ing in­quiry into elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence by the Krem­lin.

There was no bash­ing of Mueller – al­most an hourly prac­tice since his ar­rest be­fore dawn Fri­day at his Florida home. His most ef­fu­sive com­ments came when U.S. Mag­is­trate Deb­o­rah Robin­son asked whether he un­der­stood the con­di­tions of his con­tin­ued re­lease: “Yes, your honor,” Stone replied.

For ev­ery role he has em­braced in a life­time of rough-and-tum­ble elec­tive pol­i­tics – se­cre­tive ad­viser to pres­i­dents and self-pro­claimed “dirty trick­ster” – the 66-year-old Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive has lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence with his new place in pub­lic life: crim­i­nal de­fen­dant.

He faces the same grind­ing le­gal machin­ery that has se­cured con­vic­tions of three other top Trump as­so­ci­ates.

Stone’s lawyer, Robert Buschel, en­tered his not-guilty plea Tues­day.

Robin­son or­dered Stone to re­turn to court for an­other hear­ing Fri­day af­ter­noon. She or­dered that Stone re­frain from con­tact with wit­nesses in the case and that he check in with court au­thor­i­ties once each week.

Since his ar­rest by heav­ily armed FBI agents, he has lam­basted the raid as “an abuse of power.”

Stone said he wouldn’t lie to im­pli­cate the pres­i­dent or to save him­self, though he has not ruled out co­op­er­at­ing with Mueller’s team if a deal was of­fered.

Robin­son or­dered Stone to see fed­eral mar­shals so they could book him but said he would re­main free on bond.

Stone’s re­la­tion­ship with Wik­iLeaks, which pub­lished troves of doc­u­ments stolen from Demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal or­gani- za­tions by a hack­ing group backed by Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence, is at the heart of Mueller’s lat­est pros­e­cu­tion.

Among the al­le­ga­tions con­tained in the charg­ing doc­u­ments is a claim that af­ter the re­lease of stolen Clin­ton-re­lated emails July 22, “a se­nior cam­paign of­fi­cial was di­rected to con­tact Stone about any ad­di­tional re­leases and what other dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion (Wik­iLeaks) had re­gard­ing the Clin­ton cam­paign.”

“Stone, there­after, told the Trump cam­paign about the po­ten­tial fu­ture re­leases of dam­ag­ing ma­te­rial by (Wik­iLeaks),” pros­e­cu­tors al­leged. Stone de­nied be­ing an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Wik­iLeaks.

JACK GRU­BER/USA TO­DAY

Roger Stone, a for­mer po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive for the Trump cam­paign, ar­rives for a fed­eral court hear­ing Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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