Roger Stone Jr, a Republican political strategist and long-time ally of President Donald Trump, has been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
The FBI has reportedly charged Stone, 66, with seven counts, including witness tampering, obstruction of justice and giving false statements about his interactions related to hacked Democratic emails released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, The Independent reports.
The indictment states that in the summer of 2016 Stone “told senior Trump campaign officials he knew WikiLeaks had information that might damage the prospects of Trump’s rival in the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton”, Bloomberg reports.
After the hacked emails were published, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone” about what further damaging information WikiLeaks might have on Clinton, Vox reports. Bloomberg reports that this unnamed official was Steve Bannon.
However, Time Magazine makes it clear that the indictment brought by special counsel Robert Mueller “does not accuse Stone of coordinating with the Russian government’s election interference in 2016”.
Stone was arrested today in Florida and is due to appear in court later today. He is “the sixth Trump associate – joining Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos and Michael Cohen – to be charged in connection with the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign”, says CNN.
His lawyer, Grant Smith, said in a statement that any misstatements his client may have made were “immaterial” memory lapses.
“They found no Russian collusion or they would have charged him with it. Roger Stone is vindicated by the fact there was no Russian collusion,” he said.
The identity of the person or persons directing Stone and Bannon to seek the damaging material is not disclosed in the indictment.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer questions about the case, saying: “The charges brought against Mr Stone have nothing to do with the president.”
The BBC notes that the president has “distanced himself” from Stone since the election, despite the strategist “regularly appearing on television to defend his former employer”.
Who is Roger Stone?
Vox describes Stone as a “longtime GOP [Grand Old Party, or Republican Party] operative” with a “reputation for dirty tricks” reaching all the way back to his time as a strategist on Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign. The BBC reports that Stone even has a tattoo of the controversial former president on his back.
During congressional hearings on the Watergate scandal, Stone was revealed to have hired a Republican operative to infiltrate Democratic candidate George McGovern’s campaign, and had also sabotaged a Republican challenger to Nixon, the BBC reports. Stone maintains that his actions during the Watergate era were entirely legal.
He went on to work on Ronald Reagan’s successful presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1984, and served as an adviser to Trump in the mid-1980s. He also co-founded a lobbying firm with Paul Manafort, another key player in Trump’s election campaign. Manafort was convicted on eight charges of tax and bank fraud in August 2018 and is due to be sentenced next month.