30 Jan 2019

Trump friend Stone pleads not guilty in Russia probe case

12:15 pm on 30 January 2019

Roger Stone, a longtime adviser and confidant of US President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony charges in the Russia investigation after a publicity-filled few days spent slamming the probe as politically motivated.

Former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, arrives at Federal Court, Tuesday, January 29, 2019, in Washington.

Roger Stone, who was arrested last week at his Florida home, is the sixth Trump aide charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The political operative and self-described dirty trickster faces charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

He was uncharacteristically quiet during Tuesday's brief court appearance, rising to his feet to say, "Yes, Your Honor," as US Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson asked if he would agree to the conditions of his release, including restricted travel.

Stone attorney Robert Buschel entered the plea on his client's behalf.

Stone, 66, made no public statements as he arrived and departed the courthouse amid duelling chants of "lock him up" and "we love Roger".

He waved and smiled to the small crowd, some holding up glowing photos of him, and he largely ignored a group of protesters carrying signs reading "dirty traitor".

Stone, who was arrested last week at his Florida home, is the sixth Trump aide charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Hispanic pastors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

US President Donald Trump Photo: AP Photo / Susan Walsh

The indictment does not accuse Stone of coordinating with Russia or with WikiLeaks on the release of hacked Democratic emails. But it does allege that he misled lawmakers about his pursuit of those communications and interest in them.

The anti-secrecy website published emails in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election that the US says were stolen from Democrats by Russian operatives.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday that the investigation is "close to being completed," although an exact timetable is unclear.

Mueller continues to be interested in hearing from Stone aide Andrew Miller, who is fighting a grand jury subpoena, indicating the special counsel could be pursuing additional criminal charges against Stone or others related to the release of hacked material during the 2016 election by WikiLeaks, its founder, Julian Assange, and the online persona Guccifer 2.0.

Robert Mueller appearing before a Senate committee in 2013.

Robert Mueller Photo: AFP

Paul Kamenar, Miller's attorney, said Mueller's team notified him of their continued interest late Monday.

Miller defied the grand jury subpoena last year and took his challenge of Mueller's authority to a federal appeals court. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has yet to rule in the case.

Mueller's team and lawyers with the US attorney's office for the District of Columbia are jointly prosecuting the case against Stone. They did not push for Stone to be jailed or for Robinson to impose a gag order in the case.

He is free on $US250,000 bond.

Stone, who has alleged without evidence that the FBI used "Gestapo tactics" in arresting him, has said he did nothing more than exercise his First Amendment rights to drum up interest with voters about the WikiLeaks disclosures. He has also denied discussing the issue with Trump.

"That's what I engaged in. It's called politics and they haven't criminalised it, at least not yet," Stone said Sunday on ABC's This Week.

"All I did was take publicly available information and try to hype it to get it as much attention as possible, because I had a tip, the information was politically significant and that it would come in October," he added.

Tuesday's arraignment didn't inspire the same circus-like atmosphere that surrounded his Friday court appearance in Florida, where Stone emerged from the courthouse in a blue polo shirt, flashed a Richard Nixon victory sign, predicted his vindication and vowed that he would not "bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself."

- AP

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