WASHINGTON – Roger Stone, a former close adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to officials investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Stone, who was arrested last Friday at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home, pleaded not guilty during a brief hearing in a District of Columbia court, local media reported.
The judge in charge of the case ruled that Stone must appear again in court this Friday at 1:30 pm.
The charges against Stone stem from the investigation being headed since May 2017 by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, an independent probe aimed at determining the links between members of the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which US intelligence agencies accuse of interfering in the election.
In the written accusation, which was made public on Friday, Mueller accuses Stone of having lied to lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee and having pressured other witnesses to lie to the committee, which is pursuing its own investigation into Russian involvement in the election.
According to the document, Trump campaign leaders asked Stone in the summer of 2016 to contact “Organization 1,” an institution known to be the WikiLeaks Web site, which leaked emails in a move designed to harm Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election, consequently helping Trump.
In those e-mails, it can be seen that Democratic Party officials had colluded to favor a Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders, the favorite of the Democratic progressive wing, in the party primaries.
Mueller does not directly accuse Stone of playing a role in the e-mail leaks and, in fact, the president’s legal team has insisted that the judicial documents do not prove that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the campaign or the election.
Stone had worked briefly until 2015 as an adviser to Trump during his presidential campaign, although he later continued providing services to the mogul on an informal basis.
The accused has had a long career as a political consultant and lobbyist for several Republican presidential candidates, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and Trump.
So far, 34 people have been charged with assorted crimes by Mueller, including close Trump advisers like Stone and former campaign chief Paul Manafort, as well as 12 Russian citizens who have been accused of mounting cyberattacks.