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Roger Stone's Indictment Links 2016 Trump Campaign To WikiLeaks

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In a pre-dawn raid in Florida, President Trump's longtime former adviser Roger Stone was arrested. Stone is a colorful character and longtime presence in conservative politics going back to the Nixon administration. He's now been indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Stone, who is usually spotted in expensive suits, appeared in federal court wearing jeans and a blue polo. On his way out of the courthouse, he raised his arms, flashed a victory sign and pledged his loyalty to the president.

NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas is here to tell us more about what exactly happened in that courtroom. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello there.

KELLY: Start with the charges. What exactly has Roger Stone been charged with?

LUCAS: Well, the indictment contains seven counts, one each for obstruction of an official proceeding and witness tampering. And then five counts relate to alleged false statements that Stone made to congressional investigators. At its heart, what the indictment alleges is that Stone was directed by Trump campaign officials to contact WikiLeaks, find out what hacked Democratic emails the organization had in its possession and what its plans were for releasing those materials. And it was WikiLeaks, remember, that published those Democratic emails that the U.S. government says were hacked by Russia.

The indictment also alleges that Stone later took steps to try to hide the details of his efforts to contact WikiLeaks and find out what the organization was up to. Now, it is important to say that Stone was not charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks or Russia.

KELLY: No, more pointing toward possible cover-up rather than crime, these charges - OK, to give people a sense of where all this was happening, Stone was taken into custody at his home in Florida. He made his initial appearance in court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. What did he say?

LUCAS: Well, as you said earlier, the FBI raided Stone's home. It was before dawn. In TV footage from the scene, you can hear agents yelling, it's the FBI; open the door. In court, Stone has read the charges. He was then released on this quarter-million-dollar bond. Afterwards, he stepped out onto the courthouse steps and talked to reporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER STONE: I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court. I believe this is a politically motivated investigation.

LUCAS: Now, he also said that under no circumstances would he testify against President Trump. You get a bit of a sense from that tape there was a raucous scene it was outside the courthouse.

KELLY: Yeah.

LUCAS: Some of the onlookers were chanting, lock him up. Stone appeared to almost enjoy it. He had a smile on his face. I'm told that he loves this sort of fight. At one point, as you noted, he flashed that V for victory sign, which of course is a gesture that was made famous in American political history by a man he once worked for, President Richard Nixon.

KELLY: Indeed. What is the current occupant of the White House or his staff saying about all this?

LUCAS: President Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow says the indictment does not allege Russian collusion by Stone or anyone else, says that it focuses on alleged false statements that Stone made to Congress. And this has been essentially what we've heard from the president's camp to most of Mueller's indictments. They say these charges have nothing to do with Russia and nothing to do with the president.

KELLY: Allow me to put to you, Ryan, the question I think I put to you just about every time there's a new twist in all of this, which is to say pretty much daily - hourly, I'm sure it feels like. What does today's news tell us about the broader picture, the shape of the Russia investigation?

LUCAS: Well, Stone is the sixth Trump associate to be charged by Mueller in this investigation, the 34th individual overall to face charges. And over the course of this investigation, Mueller has documented multiple contacts that Trump associates had with Russians or with Russian proxies.

Now, with this Stone indictment, Mueller is providing the most-detailed account yet of contacts that folks associated with the Trump campaign allegedly had with WikiLeaks about those hacked Democratic emails. And Stone is presented as intermediary of sorts between WikiLeaks and the campaign, which is something he's denied. There's a line in the indictment that caught my eye. It says, senior Trump campaign official was directed to get in touch with Stone about what WikiLeaks had and when it would release it. That official is not identified, but the bigger question is, who directed him?

KELLY: Indeed. NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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