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Tue, Oct. 15

Trump associate Stone arrested, faces obstruction charge

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Stone, a confidant of President Donald Trump, was arrested in the special counsel's Russia investigation in a pre-dawn raid at his Florida home on Friday and was charged with lying to Congress and obstructing the probe.

The seven-count indictment against Stone, a self-proclaimed "dirty trickster," is the first criminal case in months from special counsel Robert Mueller. It provides the most detail to date about how Trump campaign associates were aware in the summer of 2016 that emails had been stolen from the Hillary Clinton campaign and wanted them released. It alleges that unnamed senior Trump campaign officials contacted Stone to ask when the stolen emails might be disclosed.

The indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published the emails, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked them. Instead, it accuses him of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements about his interactions related to WikiLeaks' release. Some of those false statements were made to the House intelligence committee, according to the indictment.

CNN recorded video of the raid at Stone's Fort Lauderdale home, showing FBI agents in combat gear using large weapons and night-vision equipment, running up to the home and banging repeatedly on the door. "FBI open the door!" one shouts. "FBI, warrant!" Stone could then be seen in the doorway in his sleepwear before he was led away, CNN reported.

Stone is the sixth Trump aide charged in Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign and the 34th person overall. The investigation has laid bare multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign and transition period and efforts by several to conceal those communications. The case against Stone comes weeks after Trump's former national security adviser was castigated by a judge in open court and just hours before his ex-campaign chairman was due in court on allegations that he had lied to Mueller's prosecutors.

The indictment lays out in detail Stone's conversations about stolen Democratic emails posted by WikiLeaks in the weeks before Trump, a Republican, beat Clinton. Mueller's office has said those emails, belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were hacked by Russian intelligence officers.

It says the Trump campaign directed a senior campaign official to contact Stone after the July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and other groups. That official, who is not named in court papers, asked Stone about additional releases and "what other damaging information" WikiLeaks had "regarding the Clinton campaign," the indictment says.

The indictment accuses Stone of carrying out a "prolonged effort" to keep New York radio host Randy Credico, referred to as Person 2, from contradicting his testimony before the House intelligence committee. During that effort, prosecutors note that Stone repeatedly told Credico to "do a 'Frank Pentangeli,'" a reference to a character in "The Godfather: Part II" who lies before a congressional committee.

One of the Trump campaign officials cited in the indictment is Steve Bannon, who later became Trump's chief strategist in the White House. Bannon, referred to as a "high-ranking Trump Campaign official," exchanged emails with Stone in October 2016 about WikiLeaks' plans for releasing hacked material. The incitement quotes from those emails, which had previously been made public by news outlets.

Stone is scheduled to appear in court in Florida later Friday. The indictment had been expected. Stone has said for months he was prepared to be charged, though he has denied any wrongdoing. A grand jury for months had heard from witnesses connected to Stone. And the intelligence committee last year voted to release a transcript of Stone's testimony to Mueller as a precursor to an indictment.

Attorney Grant Smith, who represents Stone, did not return a phone message seeking comment Friday.

Stone has publicly denigrated the Mueller investigation and echoed the president's descriptions of it as a witch hunt. But he has long attracted investigators' attention, especially in light of a 2016 tweet that appeared to presage knowledge that emails stolen from Podesta would soon be released. Stone has said he had no inside information about the contents of the emails in WikiLeaks' possession or the timing of when they'd be released.

Stone has said he learned from Credico that WikiLeaks had the emails and planned to disclose them. Stone has released emails that he says support that assertion.

Prosecutors had offered a plea agreement to Stone friend Jerome Corsi that would have required the conspiracy theorist and conservative author to admit that he intentionally lied to investigators about a discussion with Stone about WikiLeaks. But he rejected the offer.

In a tweet Friday, Podesta wrote that it was now "Roger's time in the barrel." That was a play on Stone's own words. Stone had tweeted cryptically before the Podesta emails were disclosed that it would soon be Podesta's "time in the barrel."

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