Political strategist Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump, has appeared in court on seven charges in connection with the investigation into Russian election interference.
Mr Stone, 66, was arrested on Friday in a pre-dawn raid by heavily armed FBI agents in night-vision goggles at his home in Florida and released on a $250,000 bond after a brief hearing in Fort Lauderdale. He declined to enter a plea.
A self-described “dirty trickster”, Mr Stone is officially the latest person to be ensnared by the Russia investigation looking into claims that senior members of the president’s campaign sought to benefit from the release of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a seven-count indictment against Mr Stone, which includes giving false statements and witness tampering.
Upon leaving the courthouse, Mr Stone – who worked on Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign and has a tattoo of the disgraced politician on his upper back – raised his arms in the infamous double “V” pose in which Nixon was once photographed.
Mr Stone said the special counsel’s Russia investigation was “politically motivated” and vowed to fight the charges, saying he was “falsely accused” of making false statements to the house intelligence committee. He said any error he made in his testimony wasn’t intentional. “I am troubled by the political motivations of the prosecutors,” he added. “I look forward to being fully and completely vindicated.”
The indictment provides the most detail to date about how Mr Trump’s campaign associates in the summer of 2016 actively sought the disclosure of emails the US says were hacked by Russia, then provided to WikiLeaks.
It reveals that unidentified senior Trump campaign officials contacted Mr Stone to ask when stolen emails relating to Ms Clinton might be disclosed.
Prosecutors did not charge Mr Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks or with the Russian officers Mr Mueller says hacked the emails. Rather, the indictment mirrors other Mueller cases in alleging cover-ups and deception, accusing Mr Stone of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a congressional probe into whether Mr Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the election.
The indictment does not accuse any campaign officials of wrongdoing or say that they coordinated directly with WikiLeaks. It also does not say that Mr Stone had any special knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.
Mr Stone is the sixth aide or adviser to Mr Trump charged by the special counsel and the 34th person overall. The nearly two-year-old probe has exposed multiple contacts between the president’s associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign and transition period, and revealed efforts by several to conceal those communications.
Additional reporting by Associated Press