Trump ally Roger Stone arrested for lying to Russia probe | News | DW | 25.01.2019
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Trump ally Roger Stone arrested for lying to Russia probe

The ex-campaign head and longtime ally of Donald Trump has been arrested in connection with the Russia probe. The indictment said he made "false statements" about his interactions with an entity dubbed "Organization 1."

The FBI on Friday arrested Roger Stone, a political strategist and longtime ally of President Donald Trump, in Florida. He was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of justice, making false statements to Congress and witness tampering.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating 2016 election interference and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Authorities have already arrested several Trump allies in connection with the probe, including his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Appearing outside a federal courthouse in Florida, Stone said he would plead not guilty and described the charges against him as "politically motivated."

Read more: Mueller's US-Russia probe: What you need to know

What we know so far:

  • The charges are linked to Stone's interactions with "Organization 1" and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign in 2016
  • Stone "made multiple false statements" to Mueller's probe "about his interactions regarding Organization 1" and allegedly falsely denied having records of this, the 24-page indictment read
  • Stone "attempted to persuade a witness to provide false testimony to and withhold pertinent information from the investigations"
  • White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said charges against Stone "have nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the White House"
  • Speaking after he was released on bail, Stone said he would not testify against Trump, saying: "There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president"

Read more: Michael Cohen plea signals 'blockbuster indictment,' says Watergate prosecutor

What is 'Organization 1'?

According to the indictment, "the head of Organization 1 was located at all relevant times at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, United Kingdom."

Julian Assange, who founded anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, has sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012. Assange matches the description, although the indictment does not specifically name him or WikiLeaks.

Read more: Trump will be impeached in 2019, says 'prediction professor'

Who is Roger Stone?

Stone, 66, is a political consultant who has often worked with Republican politicians, and is well-known among Washington circles for his opposition research.

In 2016, he made public comments saying he was in contact with WikiLeaks. At the time, WikiLeaks said it had "never communicated with Roger Stone."

On Friday, WikiLeaks released a statement from founder Julian Assange's US lawyer, who criticized Stone's arrest.

"The charges against Mr. Stone do not allege that Mr. Stone lied about his [lack of] contacts with Julian Assange, but rather about his contacts with others and about documents reflecting those communications," Assange's lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in the statement.

What is the Mueller probe?

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is the special counsel appointed to investigate possible Russian collusion with the Trump presidential campaign.

Stone is the 34th person to be indicted in the probe, according to US media.

How dangerous is this for Trump?

The indictment does not mean Stone has been found guilty. However, observers have questioned why more Trump officials have failed to provide information about their contacts with WikiLeaks, which US intelligence agencies believe works as an extension of Russian intelligence.

"Mueller says Roger Stone kept multiple 'senior Trump campaign officials' apprised of his inside intel about WikiLeaks," said Seth Abramson, a columnist for US magazine Newsweek. "Funny how none of those 'senior Trump campaign officials' gave any indication they were getting covert collusive assistance from an enemy of the United States."

Donald Trump, meanwhile, responded to Friday's developments with a tweet.

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cmb, ls, dj/cmk (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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