Trump longtime ally Stone arrested in U.S. Special Counsel probe

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Roger Stone, U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and presidential campaign adviser, was arrested on Friday, charged with obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements, according to a grand jury indictment made public by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

Political operative Roger Stone, a long-time ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks at the American Priority conference in Washington D.C., U.S., December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Stone, who has repeatedly said in interviews that he was likely to be indicted, is scheduled to appear at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, later on Friday, Mueller’s office said.

Stone has faced scrutiny for his support for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he implied he had access to information obtained by hackers that could embarrass Democrats, including Trump’s rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton.

A lawyer for Stone did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Stone had previously denied to Reuters that he had engaged in any criminal wrongdoing. WikiLeaks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“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,” Michael Caputo, a longtime Stone associate and former Trump campaign adviser, told Reuters. “They can’t prove collusion or conspiracy because it doesn’t exist, so they’re going after him personally. He will be vindicated.”

Stone, who was indicted on Thursday, faces one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements and one count of witness tampering, according to the Special Counsel’s Office.

CNN, in video of the arrest, showed a heavily armed FBI team taking Stone away from his home in the dark just before 6 a.m. EST (11 am GMT) on Friday and Stone surrendering without any issue.

According to the indictment, Stone had talked to senior Trump campaign officials about what was called Organization 1, “and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.”

Organization 1 matches descriptions of Wikileaks, which is dedicated to publishing secret and classified information provided by anonymous sources.

Stone, 66, was also “contacted by senior Trump campaign officials to inquire about future releases” by “Organization 1,” according to the indictment.

Additionally, Stone “took steps to obstruct” investigations by intelligence committees in the House of Representatives and Senate into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, prosecutors said.

Stone had “sent and received numerous emails and text messages during the 2016 campaign in which he discussed Organization 1, its head, and its possession of hacked emails.”

Stone still possessed many of those communications when he gave false testimony about them, prosecutors said in the indictment.

He also tried to persuade a witness to provide false testimony and withhold information from the congressional investigations, the indictment said.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, had no immediate comment, according to an aide. Representatives for the heads of the two congressional committees that interviewed Stone could not be immediately reached.

U.S. prosecutors pointed to two other individuals, including an unnamed political commentator with an online publication who regularly spoke with Trump throughout the campaign, a description that matches Jerome Corsi. They also described a radio host who Stone had known for more than 10 years, which matches the profile of Randy Credico.

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A self-described “agent provocateur” of the American right and Republican veteran of Washington and New York City politics, Stone has a tattoo of the face of late president Richard Nixon on his back. His political career began with the Nixon presidential campaign in 1972.

Corsi declined to comment and Credico did not immediately respond to request for comment. White House officials could not be immediately reached.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Nathan Layne, Mark Hosenball and Ginger Gibson in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jeffrey Benkoe

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