FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Roger Stone was arrested early Friday morning at his Florida home on charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller related to work with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and WikiLeaks.
The indictment says for the first time that senior Trump campaign officials were “directed” to contact Stone about future releases of Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers and handed to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election.
Standing outside the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale after a brief hearing, Stone vowed that he will not cut a deal with Mueller like other targets of the Russia investigation have.
“I will not testify against the president because I would have to bear false witness," Stone said after posting $250,000 bond.
In a seven-count indictment that includes charges of obstruction, witness-tampering and false statements, Stone is accused of lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks and the campaign. It also alleges the veteran GOP “dirty trickster” made Godfather-like threats against a witness, including a sinister comment about the man’s therapy dog.
Dramatic CNN footage showed federal agents at Stone’s Fort Lauderdale residence and shouting: “FBI! Open the door!” Hours later, he appeared in federal court and stood before a judge, his white hair slightly mussed, wearing an uncharacteristically rumpled navy polo, and baggy jeans.
As the hearing commenced, strains of “Back in the USSR” wafted from the street, where Stone protesters and supporters squared off. A chorus of boos, a shout of “Shut up, snowflake” by a Stone supporter, erupted as the defendant appeared outside the courthouse to complain about the circumstances of his arrest.
“They terrorized my wife, my dogs,” he said. “I was taken to the FBI facility.”
On Monday before he was charged, Stone told The Daily Beast that he expected to be indicted by the special counsel.
“I think it is possible that I will be framed, in which case I will expose both illegal surveillance on me and gross prosecutorial misconduct by a number of lawyers working for Mueller.”
COMMUNICATED WITH TRUMP CAMPAIGN
Mueller alleges that Stone spoke to senior Trump campaign officials “on multiple occasions” about WikiLeaks, which is referred to as Organization 1 in the indictment, and told them that Julian Assange’s operation may have had information that would affect the election.
The indictment also says senior Trump campaign officials reached out to Stone for information on future WikiLeaks releases. Significantly, it claims that after WikiLeaks dumped the first batch of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in July 2016, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.”
After Stone’s public claim that he had communicated with WikiLeaks in August 2016—which he has since attempted to retract—he continued to speak to senior Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks’ intended future releases in the months before Election Day, the indictment alleges.
On or around Oct. 3, 2016, Stone wrote to a “supporter” involved with the Trump campaign: “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming,” according to the indictment. It has previously been reported that the journalist in touch with Stone was Matt Boyle of Breitbart.
Later that day, Boyle asked Stone in a text message if he had “hear[d] anymore from London.”
Stone replied, “Yes—want to talk on a secure line—got Whatsapp?”
Stone subsequently told the unnamed supporter that more material would be released and that it would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks released a tranche of emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta stolen by Russian hackers. (The dump came hours after the Trump “grab ‘em by the pussy” news broke.)
Former InfoWars D.C. bureau chief Jerome Corsi, who has previously acknowledged he is the figure identified as Person No. 1 in the indictment, is accused of speaking regularly with Stone throughout the campaign, including about the release of stolen WikiLeaks documents.
In August 2016, he wrote to Stone giving him warning of Assange’s plan for “two more dumps.” Corsi added in the email: “Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke—neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.” Corsi refused to comment when asked about the allegations by The Daily Beast.
The White House trotted out the familiar defense after Mueller indictments that this one did not implicate Trump.
“My first reaction is real simple, this has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” press secretary Sarah Sanders Huckabee told CNN on Friday morning. “This is something that has to do solely with that individual and not something that effects us here in this building.”
Sanders did not mention Stone and Trump go back four decades, when the Republican operative and his lobbyist partner, Paul Manafort, took on the real-estate developer as a client in 1980. Stone advised Trump on politics from that point until at least August 2015, when he left Trump’s campaign.
Sam Nunberg, a former Stone protege and Trump campaign official, said he prevoiusly told Mueller that Stone had no inside information about the Wikileaks emails. Instead, according to Nunberg, Stone trawled for gossip in an effort to stay in-the-know.
“It was all smoke and mirrors. It’s all bullshit. He’s his own worst enemy but —and here’s the but—had Trump not treated Roger and me like shit, Roger would not have been in this position. He wouldn’t have been in the position where, on the outside, he was trying to be relevant to them and trying to be included, trying to be part of the whole thing.”
ACCUSED OF ‘GODFATHER’ TACTICS
The indictment also said Stone “took steps to obstruct” the Mueller investigation, saying he “made multiple false statements” to the House intelligence committee about his interactions with WikiLeaks, and “falsely denied possessing records that contained evidence of these interactions.” It also says he “attempted to persuade a witness to provide false testimony to and withhold pertinent information from the investigations.”
As part of the alleged efforts to hide his interactions, Stone advised his friend Randy Credico in Dec. 2017 to replicate the character Frank Pentangeli from The Godfather II, who in the film testifies before a congressional committee and falsely claims not to have critical information. The indictment says: “STONE told Person 2 that Person 2 should do a “Frank Pentangeli.” (Credico has previously said he was in contact with Stone about WikiLeaks.)
On the same day, Stone also texted Credico: “And if you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.”
Months later, in April 2018, Stone sent a threatening email to Credico calling him a “rat” and a “stoolie,” and saying: “You backstab your friends—run your mouth my lawyers are dying [to] ripyou to shreds.” He also appears to threaten Credico’s dog, saying he would “take that dog away from you.” (Credico took his therapy dog Bianca to his federal grand jury testimony in September 2018.)
Stone’s friend and former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo told The Daily Beast on Friday morning, “This has been rumored to be coming down for several months, so Roger and his legal team are ready to fight these charges in court. They can’t prove collusion or conspiracy because it doesn’t exist so they’re going after him personally. He will be vindicated.”
Caputo added that he had “talked to Roger last night. He thought it was possible this might happen today but it’s been possible every Friday since summer. So it was probably another Thursday night, sleeping lightly.”
The night before his arrest, Stone unprompted texted a Daily Beast reporter a link to a CNN story reporting that he had not been indicted and was beginning to settle into his normal life, going out for pizza on Friday nights instead of staying home threatening about new charges.
MORE TO COME?
Friday’s indictment makes Stone the second Trump affiliate indicted for lying to Congress, behind former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last year and cooperated with Mueller’s investigation. Democrats on the House intelligence committee have said they intend to send transcripts of testimony from all their witnesses before the committee’s Russia investigation.
There are indications that other witnesses may be in similar legal jeopardy. One committee Democrat, Jim Himes of Connecticut, told The Daily Beast last year that there were “significant questions about the truthfulness” of Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s testimony, and two of his colleagues also said they wanted Prince back to answer questions he initially rebuffed.
Last week, Himes’ fellow intelligence panel Democrat, Mike Quigley of Illinois, told The Daily Beast there were “nine or ten people” he wanted to give return testimony to the committee owing to questions about “the credibility of their testimony,” and specifically named Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
—Spencer Ackerman, Betsy Woodruff, and Asawin Suebsaeng contributed to this report