- President Donald Trump downplayed his connections Roger Stone in an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, but called Stone’s January 25 arrest “very sad for the country.”
- Stone was indicted on five counts of making false statements to investigators, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of witness tampering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
- The charges stem from Stone lying about his communications with Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi, people he says served as intermediaries between him and radical pro-transparency group Wikileaks.
President Donald Trump downplayed his connections to his long-time friend and on-and-off advisor Roger Stone in an interview with the New York Times published Friday, but called his January 25 arrest “very sad for the country.”
Stone was indicted on five counts of making false statements to investigators, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of witness tampering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The charges stem from Stone allegedly lying about his communications with Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi, people the long-time GOP strategist says served as intermediaries between him and radical pro-transparency group Wikileaks. Stone pleaded not guilty to all counts in a DC federal court on Tuesday.
Stone, who has known and worked with Trump on-and-off for nearly 40 years, briefly served as a communications strategist on the Trump campaign from June to around August of 2015. While Trump says he fired him, Stone maintains he quit over Trump’s feud with then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
In the interview, Trump initially tried to deny Stone ever worked on his presidential campaign before conceding he did “either early primary or before primary.”
“I will say this, I’ve always liked – I like Roger, he’s a character. But I like Roger,” Trump said.
“For a team of 29 people with AK27s, or whatever they were using, to charge a house like they did at 6:00 in the morning. I think that was a very sad thing for this country,” he added, referring to the FBI’s pre-dawn arrest of Stone and raid of his Fort Lauderdale, Florida home.
As part of the investigation, Mueller is examining whether any Trump associates had advance knowledge that Russian hackers had breached the servers of the Democratic National Committee and stolen batches of emails belonging to the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
The emails were disseminated by the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks, and the leaks – some of which came just weeks before the 2016 election – are widely seen as one of the factors that contributed to Clinton’s loss.
Stone sent out several tweets in the summer of 2016, long after officially leaving the Trump campaign, that raised questions about whether he had prior knowledge about WikiLeaks’ plans to publish the hacked emails.
In the Times interview, Trump denied having ever discussed the Wikileaks document dumps with Stone or directing him to speak with either alleged intermediary about the Clinton emails. He also repeated his praise of Stone’s stated refusal to testify or “bear false witness” against him.
“You know he’s said it numerous times, but I heard him say it one time he’s done a great job, he’s a great president, and I will not, you know, lie in order to – people respect that so much. They respect that,” he said of Stone’s comments.
Stone, however, has not completely ruled out cooperating with Mueller. In a Tuesday interview with ABC, Stone said he would be open to “testify honestly about any other matter, including any communications with the president.”
Sonam Sheth contributed to this report.
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