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WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, revealed on Friday the most direct link yet between the Trump campaign’s and WikiLeaks’ parallel efforts to use Democratic Party material stolen by Russians to damage the election campaign of Hillary R. Clinton.

In an indictment unsealed Friday, the special counsel disclosed evidence that a top campaign official in 2016 dispatched Roger J. Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump, to get information from WikiLeaks about the thousands of hacked Democratic emails. The effort began well after it was widely reported that Russian intelligence operatives were behind the theft, which was part of Moscow’s broad campaign to sabotage the 2016 president election.

The indictment makes no mention of whether Mr. Trump played a role in the coordination, though Mr. Mueller did leave a curious clue about how high in the campaign the effort reached: A senior campaign official “was directed” by an unnamed person to contact Mr. Stone about additional WikiLeaks releases that might damage the Clinton campaign, according to the court document.

Mr. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering.

F.B.I. agents arrested him before dawn on Friday, appearing at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home with ballistic vests and guns drawn. Agents typically use those tactics as a precaution to secure possible evidence and protect themselves in case a suspect fights arrest. F.B.I. agents were also seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Mr. Stone’s apartment in Harlem.
An F.B.I. agent leaving Mr. Stone’s apartment in Harlem.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

An F.B.I. agent leaving Mr. Stone’s apartment in Harlem.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

Mr. Stone appeared briefly in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning, his ankles and waist shackled in front of a packed courtroom. Mr. Stone, known for his dapper wardrobe, was dressed simply in a navy blue cotton polo shirt, bluejeans and his trademark round, black-rimmed glasses, his demeanor flat.

He posted a $250,000 bond, was ordered to surrender his passport and agreed to appear in federal court in Washington later. His lawyer, Grant Smith, dismissed the charges, calling them “ridiculous,” and said, “this is all about a minor charge about lying to Congress about something that was apparently found later.”

Mr. Stone posted a photo of himself on Instagram on Friday under the banner “Who Framed Roger Stone.” Part of the caption read, “this morning’s news is deeply saddening. Robert Mueller’s early morning raid was straight out of the Gestapo’s playbook.”

The indictment is the first in months by Mr. Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump campaign associates. Citing details in emails and other forms of communications, the indictment suggested that Mr. Trump’s campaign knew about additional stolen emails before they were released and asked Mr. Stone to find out about them

According to the indictment, between June and July of 2016, Mr. Stone told “senior Trump campaign officials” about the stolen emails in WikiLeaks’ possession that could be damaging to Mrs. Clinton. On July 22, WikiLeaks released its first batch of Democratic emails. After that, according to the indictment, the Trump campaign sought more.

“A senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton campaign,” the indictment said, referring to WikiLeaks.
A portion of the indictment.

A portion of the indictment.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, sought to broadly distance Mr. Trump from the charges. “The charges brought against Mr. Stone have nothing to do with the president,” she told CNN. Asked whether he directed a campaign aide to contact Mr. Stone about the WikiLeaks emails, she repeated that the charges did not involve the president.

The indictment does not mention whether Mr. Stone or any other Trump associate knew about the Russian operatives’ plans before they hacked the Democrats. As Mr. Mueller’s investigators interviewed witnesses and reviewed documents, they sought to answer that question, according to two people briefed on the inquiry. To make a case that Mr. Trump’s associates conspired with the Russians, the investigators indicated, they needed to show that the associates knew about the hacks in advance — knowing about the fruits of what Russia stole was not enough, the people said.

A self-described dirty trickster, Mr. Stone began his career as a campaign aide for Richard M. Nixon and has a tattoo of Nixon on his back. He has spent decades plying the political dark arts — including scandal-mongering — to help influence American election campaigns, and has long maintained that he had no connection to Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

He sometimes seemed to taunt American law enforcement agencies, daring them to find hard evidence to link him to the Russian election interference. His brash behavior made him less of a subject of news media scrutiny than other current and former aides to President Trump — like the character in a whodunit whom readers immediately dismiss as too obvious to have committed the crime.

In June of 2016, days before Russia was publicly identified as having stolen the emails, senior Trump campaign officials and Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney about getting information that could be damaging to Mrs. Clinton.
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It is illegal for a political campaign to accept foreign aid, and Mr. Trump and his son have said they did nothing wrong because they did not receive any damaging materials because of that meeting.
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Mr. Stone has said publicly that he was in contact with WikiLeaks and suggested on Twitter that additional damaging information would be coming.

But the special counsel’s investigators spent months encircling Mr. Stone, renewing scrutiny about his role during the 2016 presidential race. Investigators interviewed former Trump campaign advisers and several of his associates about Mr. Stone’s fund-raising during the campaign and his contacts with WikiLeaks.

Three senior Trump campaign officials have told Mr. Mueller’s team that Mr. Stone created the impression that he was a conduit for inside information from WikiLeaks, according to people familiar with their witness interviews. One of them told investigators that Mr. Stone not only seemed to predict WikiLeaks’ actions, but also that he took credit afterward for the timing of its disclosures that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

In October, Mr. Stone exchanged emails with Stephen K. Bannon, then the chief executive of Mr. Trump’s campaign. In one exchange, Mr. Stone wrote that more WikiLeaks disclosures were forthcoming, “a load every week going forward,” according to the indictment. Mr. Bannon appears to be the official described in the court document as “the high-ranking Trump Campaign official,” based on previous disclosures about the email exchange.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:
What was that this morning???

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Roger Stone
TO: Steve Bannon
EMAIL:
Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done.
However —a load every week going forward.
Roger stone

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:
He didn’t cut deal w/ clintons???

A day before Mr. Stone and Mr. Bannon emailed about WikiLeaks, Donald Trump Jr. exchanged Twitter messages with the WikiLeaks Twitter account and asked, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about.”

At the end of that week, on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks released more than 6,000 emails related to John D. Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign. The release came 30 minutes after The Washington Post published a recording of Mr. Trump bragging on the set of “Access Hollywood” about assaulting women. The timing has raised questions about whether the WikiLeaks release was an attempt to distract the public from the tape and redirect negative attention from Mr. Trump to the Clinton campaign.
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In social media posts and numerous interviews before the 2016 election, Mr. Stone indicated that he had advance knowledge that a trove of information damaging to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign might be about to spill into public view, and even suggested that he had personally spoken to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

Mr. Stone has changed his story in the months since, saying that he was not actually speaking to Mr. Assange and that he had no direct knowledge that Russians were responsible for the Democratic hacking. Still, it was revealed last year that, in the weeks before the election, Mr. Stone was messaging on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, a pseudonym used by one or more operatives in the Russian intelligence scheme to steal the emails and funnel them to WikiLeaks.

Mr. Stone himself has said publicly that he was prepared for the possibility that he could be indicted, but he has long maintained that he is innocent and has often echoed Mr. Trump’s claims that Mr. Mueller’s investigation is a politically motivated witch hunt.

“This was supposed to be about Russian collusion, and it appears to be an effort to silence or punish the president’s supporters and his advocates,” he said last May on “Meet the Press.”

“It is not inconceivable now that Mr. Mueller and his team may seek to conjure up some extraneous crime pertaining to my business, or maybe not even pertaining to the 2016 election,” he said.

The tumultuous relationship between Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump goes back decades, with Mr. Stone acting as an informal adviser to Mr. Trump as he considered running for president several times. When Mr. Trump formally announced during the spring of 2015 that he was running for president, Mr. Stone was one of the first members of the team, but within months, he had a public dispute with Mr. Trump and left the campaign.

The two men have remained close, though, speaking often by telephone.

1 comment

  1. Don Karsenbarg

    I don’t see why the wall is such a must for Mr.Trump. We realize that the wall was part of the platform in 2016, but was it so crucial, that 800.000 workers were to become fodder to get it financed? Mr Trump should realize that the isolationist policies of the 20th century went out with the Art Deco period.
    The large reduction in the taxes for the wealthy also proved to be self-serving and the confirmation of Mr.Kavanaugh, after the hearings, was to please Mr.McConnell and should be reviewed.
    It seems to me that Mr.Trump likes to roll with the punches and is unable to direct the administration to any set goal. I am also dismayed to see so many treaties cancelled after so many years of hard work of previous administrations. And for Mr.Trump to denounce global warming as just heifer dust is next to calling all the border crossers criminals and prostitutes.

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