Roger Stone, an ally of US President Donald Trump was arrested and charged with seven counts, according to a grand jury indictment that was made public by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office on Friday.

Political operative Roger Stone speaks at the American Priority conference in Washington DC, US, December 6, 2018.
Political operative Roger Stone speaks at the American Priority conference in Washington DC, US, December 6, 2018. (Reuters)

Roger Stone, a former adviser to US President Donald Trump who was arrested and later released on bail, said on Friday he would plead not guilty to "politically motivated" charges following his indictment by Russia meddling investigator Robert Mueller.

Stone was earlier arrested and charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering, according to the office of Mueller.

"I am falsely accused," Stone said outside the courthouse in Ft Lauderdale following his predawn arrest in the southern Florida city, declaring himself "troubled by the political motivations of the prosecutors."

Stone said he believes he's being "persecuted" because of his friendship with President Donald Trump.

He also pledged his support for Donald Trump – one of his "oldest friends" – saying, "I have made it clear that I will not testify against the president, because I would have to bear false witness against him."

Simon Marks joins TRT World for more on the story.

The arrest

It was the first move in months by the special prosecutor probing Russian collusion in the 2016 US election and whether Trump and his people tried to obstruct justice.

FBI agents arrived at Stone's home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida early Friday to take him into custody, CNN reported.

One agent pounded on the door and said, "FBI. Open the door," CNN said.

The indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published the emails, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked them. 

Instead, it accuses him of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements about his interactions related to WikiLeaks’ release. Some of those false statements were made to the House intelligence committee, according to the indictment.

The indictment lays out in detail Stone’s conversations about stolen Democratic emails posted by WikiLeaks in the weeks before Trump, a Republican, beat Clinton. 

Mueller’s office has said those emails, belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were hacked by Russian intelligence officers.

It says the Trump campaign directed a senior campaign official to contact Stone after the July 22, 2016 WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and other groups. 

That official, who is not named in court papers, asked Stone about additional releases and “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign,” the indictment says.

Stone has said for months he was prepared to be charged, though he has denied any wrongdoing. A grand jury for months had heard from witnesses connected to Stone. And the intelligence committee last year voted to release a transcript of Stone’s testimony to Mueller as a precursor to an indictment. 

Stone has publicly denigrated the Mueller investigation and echoed the president’s descriptions of it as a witch hunt. But he has long attracted investigators’ attention, especially in light of a 2016 tweet that appeared to presage knowledge that emails stolen from Podesta would soon be released. 

Stone has said he had no inside information about the contents of the emails in WikiLeaks’ possession or the timing of when they’d be released.

He has said he learned from Randy Credico, a New York radio host, that WikiLeaks had the emails and planned to disclose them. 

Stone has released emails that he says support that assertion.
Prosecutors had offered a plea agreement to Stone friend Jerome Corsi that would have required the conspiracy theorist and conservative author to admit that he intentionally lied to investigators about a discussion with Stone about WikiLeaks. But he rejected the offer.

In a tweet Friday, Podesta wrote that it was now “Roger’s time in the barrel.” That was a play on Stone’s own words. Stone had tweeted cryptically before the Podesta emails were disclosed that it would soon be Podesta’s “time in the barrel.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies