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Roger Stone Pleads Not Guilty In D.C. Federal Court Following Florida Arrest

Jan 29, 2019
Originally published on January 29, 2019 6:48 pm

Updated at 11:54 a.m. ET

Republican political consultant Roger Stone pleaded not guilty in federal court on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to obstruction and other charges unsealed last week.

Stone was arrested Friday in South Florida, but the grand jury that indicted him operates in the nation's capital, so he could eventually face trial in Washington.

Stone was indicted on one count of obstructing a proceeding, five counts of making false statements to Congress and one count of witness tampering — prosecutors allege that he tried to persuade another witness to lie to Congress, too.

He appeared on Tuesday in a blue suit, a bright blue tie and a pocket square. attorney Robert Buschel entered the plea.

Justice Department prosecutor Jeannie Rhee said in court that the office of special counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney's Office for Washington, D.C., would jointly try the Stone case.

Prosecutor Michael Marando asked the judge for the same conditions imposed in Florida to apply to Stone in Washington.

The magistrate judge advised Stone not to have any contact with witnesses in his case, not to apply for a new passport and not to travel except between his home and the court in D.C.

Stone said he understood. He was ordered to appear on Friday for another hearing.

Demonstrators — both pro-Stone and anti-Stone — thronged outside the courthouse along with journalists and photographers.

Stone says he has done nothing wrong, and he has complained about his treatment from the FBI and from the Justice Department since his arrest. He used a series of media appearances to declare that he has been wronged and to vow to fight the charges.

Stone also rejected the idea that he had any inside line to WikiLeaks, which released materials in 2016 stolen by Russia's military intelligence agency, or that he was part of a conspiracy to help swing the 2016 election for Donald Trump.

Roger Stone, a confidant of President Trump, walks out of the federal courthouse last Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was in court again on Tuesday and will be again this Friday.
Lynne Sladky / AP

"All I did was take publicly available information and try to hype it to get it as much attention as possible," he said Sunday during an interview with ABC News.

Stone has acknowledged much of the substance of the indictment unveiled last week: He heard from Trump's top political lieutenants, including deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and, later, top campaign boss Steve Bannon, about WikiLeaks' intentions for the 2016 race.

Stone also acknowledged talking on the phone with Trump himself but said all these contacts were "benign" and that all he has done is be the political professional he has always been.

Stone also told ABC on Sunday that he might be open to cooperating with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller but then told TV crews outside his home on Monday that he has no intention of entering into any kind of plea deal with the Justice Department.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Fans and foes of the political consultant Roger Stone battled outside a Washington courthouse today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #1: (Chanting) We love Roger. We love Roger. We love Roger.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #2: (Chanting) Lock him up. Lock him up.

CORNISH: Stone himself was unusually understated inside the courtroom. He pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges. In a moment we'll look at where the whole special counsel probe on Russia and Trump associates stands. First, NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here to talk about Roger Stone. Welcome to the studio.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: So those chants sounded like frankly two groups ready to come to blows. Can you talk about the atmosphere outside the courthouse and also inside?

JOHNSON: Yeah, the crowd outside the courthouse got kind of wild. There were people with signs calling Roger Stone a dirty traitor and others blasting Hillary Clinton, who of course was Donald Trump's political opponent in 2016. When he finally arrived this morning, Roger Stone was flanked by about four or five police officers to help him move through that crowd. Photographers wound up taking a picture of Stone with his hands up getting wanded as he went through security.

But once he got into the courtroom, Stone was actually kind of subdued. He wore a blue suit, a blue tie, blue pocket square. But he didn't say much. He made a lot of expressive faces - lifting his eyebrows at the judge - but not a lot of comments.

CORNISH: Stone has pleaded not guilty to false statements and obstruction charges that he's facing. Did we learn anything more about the case against him?

JOHNSON: Not any tantalizing new details. Today the heart of the indictment accuses Roger Stone of misleading Congress, about his contacts with WikiLeaks and people in the Trump campaign in 2016 just as WikiLeaks was dumping emails to hurt the Clinton campaign and help Donald Trump. This whole thing lasted only about 15 minutes. The judge told Roger Stone not to contact any witnesses in the case, not to apply for a passport. And he's due back in court for a longer hearing on Friday afternoon here in D.C..

CORNISH: You know, Carrie, you're describing Roger Stone as not saying much in the courtroom. He didn't say much as he left. This is not a guy known for being quiet. So what's going on here?

JOHNSON: Yeah, it's hard to say if this is a deliberate strategy. Remember Stone gave lengthy remarks after his arrest last week in Florida, including a livestream interview with the website InfoWars. Then he flashed a V sign for victory. Today there was nothing like that. And maybe that he's worried the judge in his case, Amy Berman Jackson, might impose a gag order on him. The same judge imposed a gag on Stone's former business partner Paul Manafort when he was charged with wrongdoing. We're going to find out later this week if Stone is able to keep quiet. We know other people won't. In fact someone was playing the Russian national anthem when I walked out of the courthouse this afternoon.

CORNISH: Finally there has been a flurry of interest in when this Russia investigation might end. Is there any sense of that from what you heard in the courtroom?

JOHNSON: We have a few clues. Yesterday the Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker told reporters he thinks the special counsel investigation may be close to being completed. Whitaker says he hopes Robert Mueller turns in his final report as soon as possible. The special counsel didn't want to comment about that. In court today one of the special counsel prosecutors, Jeannie Rhee, said Roger Stone is going to be tried jointly by the special counsel lawyers and lawyers from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C. We've seen that before.

It may be the special counsel will pass the baton to regular Justice Department prosecutors when the special counsel team decides to disband. This investigation, though, is less than two years old. Authorities have now charged six people close to President Donald Trump and dozens of Russian officers and businesses, so they've been very active.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.