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Trump confidant Roger Stone indicted in Mueller probe, says charges 'politically motivated'

"I am falsely accused of making false statements," Stone said after he was released from jail Friday.

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Roger Stone speaks to the media after leaving federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Friday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Roger Stone speaks to the media after leaving federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Friday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Roger Stone Jr., a political operative and friend of President Donald Trump, has been indicted on seven criminal charges in the Justice Department's Russia investigation, including making false statements and witness tampering.

Stone, 66, was arrested in Florida early Friday and appeared in a Fort Lauderdale court a few hours later. At the hearing, a federal magistrate judge ruled Stone didn't pose a flight risk and granted his release on a $250,000 bond. He appeared in court in shackles wearing a polo shirt and jeans.

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"I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court," Stone told reporters Friday after his release. He added he won't "bear false witness" against Trump in Mueller's "politically motivated investigation."

"I am falsely accused of making false statements," he added.

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The grand jury indictment was unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller after Stone's arrest.

The self-described "dirty trickster" is credited for getting Trump into politics. He's also been accused of having contact with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign. Stone has called Assange "my hero" for releasing dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

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Mueller is examining whether a Russian hacker provided WikiLeaks with damaging information about Clinton that was ultimately passed on to Trump's campaign through Stone. The operative worked briefly for the Trump campaign in 2015 and continued to work for him on an informal basis. In addition to his arrest in Florida, CNN reported the FBI also executed a search warrant at Stone's New York duplex.

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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there is no connection between Stone's arrest and Trump.

"My first reaction is real simple: this has nothing to do with the president, and certainly nothing to do with the White House," she told CNN.

Trump also addressed the arrest in a tweet Friday.

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"Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better," he wrote.

Stone's lawyer Grant Smith said the FBI showed up with a SWAT team to arrest his client.

"He's been very public for the last two years about where he was and what he was doing," Smith told NBC News. "If they'd found any collusion they would have charged him with it. "He will fight vigorously because these were things he did not recall and were immaterial to the scope of the investigation."

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Stone told ABC News in July he was the member of Trump's campaign who corresponded with hackers from the group Guccifer 2.0, which hacked Clinton's emails. The Democratic National Committee became aware that its computer systems had been hacked in May 2016.

Stone denied knowing that the Russians were behind Guccifer.

"During the summer of 2016, Stone spoke to senior Trump campaign officials about [WikiLeaks] and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign," the indictment read. "Stone was contacted by senior Trump campaign officials to inquire about future releases by [WikiLeaks]."

Stone said in mid-August he'd directly communicated with WikiLeaks, which the organization denied. He then clarified that he'd worked with an intermediary.

After Trump was elected, Congress and the FBI began looking into reports of Russian interference in the election. The indictment alleges Stone made "multiple false statements" to the House intelligence committee, denying he possessed records of the interactions. He also attempted to persuade a witness to give false testimony and withhold information, the indictment said.

In the lead-up to the election, tranches of documents were released that had been stolen from the personal email account of the Clinton campaign's chairman. In all, 50,000 documents were stolen and made public. Stone had been notified that summer WikiLeaks planned two more dumps that would be "very damaging" to Clinton, the indictment reads. They would focus on Clinton's health, say she has a bad memory and that she'd suffered a stroke.

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The indictment, issued by a grand jury Thursday, said Stone received a text message on Oct. 1, 2016, stating, "big news Wednesday ... now pretend u don't know me ... Hillary's campaign will die this week."

The release of information led to Clinton's campaign making a "full-court press" to keep Assange from releasing any more information.

The indictment said WikiLeaks released the first set of emails on Oct. 7, prompting a text message from Trump's campaign to Stone that said, "Well done."

Stone's arrest occurred hours before former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was set to appear in a Washington, D.C., court as part of Mueller's investigation. He is accused of lying to investigators after a plea agreement to cooperate with Mueller's team.

Sam Howard contributed to this report.

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