Trump Adviser Indicted On 7 Counts Related To 2016 Election Attack
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Roger Stone has been arrested and indicted. President Trump's longtime friend and adviser is due in a Florida courtroom this morning. He was arrested at his home in Florida. Stone faces seven federal charges relating to the special counsel's investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. Joining us now, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith and national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Good morning to you both.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: Carrie, I'm going to start with you. What more can you tell us about the indictment?
JOHNSON: Roger Stone is charged with obstruction, with lying to congressional investigators and with alleged witness tampering. Stone has been denying wrongdoing throughout this investigation, basically saying whatever conduct investigators or authorities thought he was up to with WikiLeaks in the course of the 2016 campaign was merely a good guess.
But this indictment, Rachel, lays out some new evidence that Stone was in regular contact with WikiLeaks, labeled as Organization 1 in these court papers, and senior officials in the Trump campaign in the course of the 2016 campaign, including a particularly critical time in September and October, when WikiLeaks was dumping negative information about Trump's political rival, Hillary Clinton.
MARTIN: So if we know that Roger Stone was in communications with WikiLeaks and we know U.S. intelligence agencies have said WikiLeaks was operating at the behest of Russia, does that mean that Roger Stone has been now connected directly to Russia's efforts to interfere in the U.S. election?
JOHNSON: Well, we don't see all the evidence in this indictment this morning. More is likely to come out in the course of the court proceedings later today and in the weeks ahead. Roger Stone has always said he did nothing wrong. WikiLeaks has denied it's been in cahoots with Russia. But authorities seem to have some evidence to back up these claims in the indictment issued by a grand jury.
MARTIN: Tamara, can you remind us about Roger Stone's relationship with President Trump? How - it goes back a long time, right?
KEITH: It goes back a long time. Roger Stone is a longtime political consultant who worked on presidential campaigns going back to Richard Nixon, even has a tattoo of Richard Nixon's face on his back. He actually worked on the Trump campaign itself, though he quit in August of 2015. But he never really lost touch with the Trump campaign. That often happens in Trump orbit. People never really leave even when they fall out.
And in this case, based on what the indictment alleges, there were numerous contacts between Roger Stone and - and high-ranking people in the Trump campaign at very critical moments in the campaign and as related to the wiki - WikiLeaks release of stolen campaign emails.
MARTIN: We saw - as Michael Cohen - as his legal jeopardy started to increase, we saw President Trump distance himself from his former attorney. Have we seen President Trump distance himself from Roger Stone in the past months?
KEITH: Not in the past months but way before that. President Trump has, you know - the White House has said, like, Roger Stone, he's not our issue. He left the campaign back in 2015. But what this indictment shows is that he wasn't completely out of the loop.
MARTIN: We do have a clip of Roger Stone. Carrie mentioned that he has been consistent in his denials. Here he is from an MSNBC interview back in March 2018.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDNG)
ROGER STONE: And I can say with confidence that I know nothing about any Russian collusion or any other inappropriate act, that I never had any advance knowledge of the content, the source or the exact timing of the WikiLeaks disclosures.
MARTIN: So now we have an FBI indictment that suggests otherwise. Carrie Johnson, there is another close former adviser to President Trump who will appear in a courtroom today.
JOHNSON: That's right. Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, is appearing in court in Washington, D.C., today, part of a proceeding to determine whether he intentionally lied to investigators in the special counsel's office and blew up his plea deal. This is remarkable, Rachel, because Manafort and Roger Stone are former business partners.
During the 1980s, they were as high-flying as it gets in Washington, D.C., sometimes walking right up to the line, some people would say walking over the line, when it came to their lobbying activities in the U.S. and around the world. Now both of these men have been indicted by federal grand juries, quite a comedown from the heights of the 1980s.
MARTIN: OK, NPR's Carrie Johnson and Tamara Keith, thanks so much. We appreciate it.
KEITH: You're welcome.
JOHNSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.