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Trump Associate Roger Stone Arrested, Charged On Seven Counts


Roger Stone speaks at the American Priority Conference in Washington last month.

Roger Stone, a longtime ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, has been arrested by the FBI and charged with seven criminal counts connected to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Stone was taken into custody by FBI agents in a predawn operation on January 25 at his home in the south Florida city of Fort Lauderdale.

CNN showed footage of an agent pounding on the door of Stone’s residence and shouting: "FBI. Open the door."

Stone, who served as an informal adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, was charged with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements, and one count of witness tampering, according to Mueller's office.

After a court appearance in Florida, Stone was released on $250,000 bond and later declared his innocence in remarks to reporters outside the courthouse.

He insisted he had been "falsely accused" of lying to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and asserted that any incorrect statements were not intentional.

He vowed continued support for Trump, adding that "I have made it clear that I will not testify against the president, because I would have to bear false witness against him."

The arrest came a day after Stone was indicted by a grand jury on the seven counts, according to documents filed by Mueller’s office.

The indictment, which had been expected, does not accuse Stone of coordinating with the Russian government's election interference in 2016, the key matter under investigation in the Mueller probe.

But it details Stone's discussions about stolen Democratic Party e-mails posted by WikiLeaks in the weeks before Trump beat Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The indictment alleges that top members of the Trump campaign were in contact with Stone and sought information on when damaging e-mails related to Clinton would be made public. It did not disclose the names of the "senior" campaign officials.

Mueller's office has said those e-mails, belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were hacked by Russian intelligence officers.

Trump denied any collusion or coordination by himself or his campaign team with Russians during the campaign after U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Moscow interfered in the election to benefit Trump and hurt Clinton's chances.

In a Twitter statement following Stone’s arrest, Trump wrote: “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there [at Stone’s arrest]?”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on January 25 said accusations that Trump did anything improper were "ridiculous and insulting.”

"This [Stone's arrest] has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House," she told CNN.

“[T]o accuse the president of the United States of asking someone to break the law. That is, frankly, it's just insulting. It's just not true," she added in a Twitter video posting.

Stone is among some 35 people to have faced criminal charges that stem from Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

One of the most prominent, Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, was convicted in federal court in Virginia in August of bank fraud and tax evasion connected to his work in Ukraine. He later pleaded guilty in a separate case to two counts of conspiracy to avoid a second trial in Washington, D.C.

At least 12 Russian intelligence officers have been indicated for their roles in hacking into the Democratic Party and leaking stolen e-mails and other information during the 2016 campaign.

They were identified as members of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff and are not in custody. Known as the GRU, the directorate is one of Russia’s primary intelligence agencies.

In a case not directly related to the Russia probe, longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making hush-money payments -- allegedly at Trump's direction -- to women who claimed to have affairs with Trump to ensure their silence during his 2016 White House bid.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP