With his arrest on Friday, political lobbyist and longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone has become the latest scalp in Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The 66-year-old was arrested Friday morning [local time] by the FBI at his Florida home after he was indicted by a grand jury on charges which allege he sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks in association with senior Trump campaign officials.
In the indictment, special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, alleges a senior campaign official directed Mr Stone to gather information from WikiLeaks about the thousands of emails stolen from Democratic Party computers.
The Trump campaign’s efforts to secure the emails began long after it was widely reported Russian intelligence was behind the theft, the New York Times reported.
Mr Stone was charged with seven counts, including making false statements, witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding.
He has publicly maintained he did not know in advance what information WikiLeaks would release. That lie, told to Congress, forms the basis of his other criminal charges.
The indictment does not name the senior Trump campaign officials who directed Mr Stone to contact WikiLeaks but this is the first time the Mueller investigation has acknowledged multiple actors close to the president were involved in the effort.
“During the summer of 2016, Stone spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organisation 1 [WikiLeaks] and information it might have that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign,” the indictment reads. “Stone was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organisation 1.”
Mr Stone’s attorney, Grant Smith, called the charges “ridiculous” and told CNN there had been no collusion with Russia, “or they would have charged him with it”.
“The indictment today does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else. Rather, the indictment focuses on alleged false statements Mr. Stone made to Congress.”
President Trump is also not listed in the indictment.
“This has nothing to do with the President and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
“This is something that has to do solely with that individual, and not something that affects us here.”
Mr Stone posted a $250,000 bond on Friday and agreed to appear in a federal court in Washington later. He has also surrendered his passport.
Leaving the Fort Lauderdale courthouse, the political operative who has worked in Washington for decades for Republicans such as Richard Nixon and Robert Reagan, flashed a peace sign and smiled in front of the large crowd that had gathered.
Mr Stone later posted a photo of himself on Instagram under the banner “Who Framed Roger Stone” and has begun selling “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” T-shirts to fund his defence.
“This morning’s news is deeply saddening. Robert Mueller’s early morning raid was straight out of the gestapo’s playbook,” the caption in part read.
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This morning's news is deeply saddening. Robert Mueller's early morning raid was straight out of the gestapo's playbook. We must fight for Roger Stone… now more than ever. If they can do this to Roger… they are coming for us next! -staff JOIN THE FIGHT –> https://www.stonedefensefund.co
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Ebony Bowden contributed reporting from New York City.