WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) – A visibly angry judge on Thursday ordered President Donald Trump’s former political adviser Roger Stone to stop speaking publicly about U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal case against him or else he will be sent to jail pending trial.
In a tense court hearing on Thursday, U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said that Stone’s apology and explanations for why he posted a photo of her next to the image of the crosshairs of a gun on his Instagram account were not credible.
Jackson made her ruling after a highly unusual hearing in which Stone, who is charged with crimes related to Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, took the stand to testify about the posting.
Stone’s seemingly contradictory statements and at times foggy recollections about the post’s origins during a cross-examination by the government frustrated Jackson, who later concluded he “could not even keep his story straight on the stand.”
Stone, a longtime Republican political operative, friend of Trump and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster,” was arrested on Jan. 25. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
Besides probing the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow ran an operation to hack Democratic Party computers and spread disinformation to undermine candidate Hillary Clinton and the American electoral process, Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow officials.
Trump denies collusion and Russia denies allegations of meddling.
Stone apologized to the judge for the post on Instagram and asked for a second chance.
“Thank you, but the apology rings quite hollow,” Jackson told Stone.
“What all of this means, Mr. Stone, is that any violation of this order will be a basis for revoking your bond and detaining you pending trial. So I want to be clear – today I gave you a second chance. But this is not baseball. There will not be a third chance.”
Jackson had ordered Stone to appear in court to review whether the posting on his Instagram account violated his conditions of release and a narrowly tailored media gag order she imposed last week. He is out on a $250,000 bond and is free to travel without court permission to certain cities.
The media gag order did not explicitly bar Stone from speaking publicly about the case as long as he was not on courthouse grounds.
However, it cautioned him to tread carefully and said he would not be able to complain later if he decided his own comments had tainted the jury pool.
The original posting on Monday on Stone’s Instagram account not only contained a photo of Jackson next to the crosshairs, but also had text that ranted against Mueller as a “hitman” and called Jackson “an Obama-appointed judge” a reference to Trump’s Democratic predecessor in the White House.
Stone later took the image down and apologized, but afterwards he gave an interview on conspiracy website Infowars defending the post.
At Thursday’s hearing, Stone said: “I abused the order,” Stone said. “I am kicking myself over my own stupidity.”
“Your honor, I can only beseech you to give me a second chance,” Stone said. “Forgive me the trespass. I’m hurtfully sorry.”
The investigation has clouded Trump’s two years in office and has been a frequent target of the president and his allies. So far, the investigation has ensnared 34 people.
The most tense exchanges of Thursday’s hearing were during a cross-examination by prosecutor Jonathan Kravis, who repeatedly tried to get Stone to reveal who had selected the image for him.
Stone testified he has between five and six volunteers who come and go freely from his home and have access to his cell phone. He rattled off the names of some volunteers, but also said he could not remember all of them.
At first when asked by his lawyer Bruce Rogow if one of those volunteers had posted the image, Stone testified he did not select or review it.
Later, however, Stone said he had seen the picture and posted it himself, but did not realize its implications.
“Excuse me, did you not just tell me under oath less than five minutes ago that someone else posted it?” Jackson asked Stone.
“That’s not inconsistent – I didn’t choose the image. I did post it,” Stone replied.
Later, he again changed the story, saying he had at his disposal several images of the judge to choose from before the posting.
“I erased all of the images of your honor because I did not want to make the same mistake twice,” he said.
“You had a choice?” an incredulous Jackson asked. “You closed your eyes and picked?”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; additional reporting by Makini Brice; Writing by Tim Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool)
Judge Orders Parts of Mueller Report Un-Redacted In Michael Flynn Case
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has ordered portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to be un-redacted and made public in the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued the limited order Thursday. Portions of the report relating to Flynn are redacted and would be made public under the order.
It is the first time a federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to make public portions of the report the agency had kept secret.
Mueller officially concluded his investigation in March. Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s report in April.
Flynn is awaiting sentence after admitting to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Michael Flynn Assisted In Mueller’s Obstruction, WikiLeaks Investigations
As part of his guilty plea, President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn assisted special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigations into the Trump campaign’s discussions of WikiLeaks, as well as “potential efforts to interfere or otherwise obstruct” the special counsel, according to a new court filing.
Details: The filing, which states that Flynn is ready for sentencing, claims that the former top Trump aide informed prosecutors of multiple instances in which “either he or his lawyers received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.” The filing also states that Flynn “provided a voicemail recording of one such communication.”
- On the WikiLeaks front, Flynn gave prosecutors statements made in 2016 by Trump campaign officials after the release of the Podesta emails in which “the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.”
Why it matters: This filing suggests Flynn was a far more valuable witness to Mueller than previously known.
(Reporting by Axios)
Read the full court filing:
Senate Intelligence Committee Reaches Deal With Donald Trump Jr. For Interview
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Intelligence Committee has struck a deal with Donald Trump Jr. to appear for a closed-door interview next month, pulling the two sides back, for now, from a confrontation over a subpoena as part of the panel’s Russia investigation.
Under the terms of the deal, according to two people familiar with the agreement, Trump Jr. will talk to the committee in mid-June for up to four hours. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday to discuss the confidential terms.
The deal comes after the panel subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s eldest son to discuss answers he gave the panel’s staff in a 2017 interview. Trump Jr. had backed out of interviews twice, prompting the subpoena, according to people familiar with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr’s remarks to a GOP luncheon last week. Those people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Burr’s remarks in the private senators’ meeting.
The deadline for Trump Jr. to respond was Monday, according to one of the people familiar with the terms, and he expected to be held in contempt for declining to be interviewed. But the committee reached out Monday evening and the deal was struck.
A spokeswoman for Burr declined to comment. The North Carolina Republican has weathered fierce criticism for the subpoena from the president and his GOP colleagues.
Trump said on Tuesday said he believed that his son was being treated poorly.
“It’s really a tough situation because my son spent, I guess, over 20 hours testifying about something that Mueller said was 100 percent OK and now they want him to testify again,” Trump told reporters at the White House before traveling to Louisiana. “I don’t know why. I have no idea why. But it seems very unfair to me.”
It’s the first known subpoena of a member of the president’s immediate family, and some Republicans went as far as to say they thought Trump Jr. shouldn’t comply.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., tweeted, “It’s time to move on & start focusing on issues that matter to Americans.” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a GOP member of the panel, said he understood Trump Jr.’s frustration. Cornyn’s Texas colleague, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, said there was “no need” for the subpoena.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on “Fox News Sunday” that if he were Trump Jr.’s lawyer, “I would tell him, ‘You don’t need to go back into this environment anymore.’”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has defended Burr, telling his colleagues during the private GOP luncheon last week that he trusted the intelligence committee chairman. On Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that “none of us tell Chairman Burr how to run his committee.”
Still, McConnell made it clear that he is eager to be finished with the probe, which has now gone on for more than two years.
Burr has “indicated publicly he believes they will find no collusion” with Russia, McConnell said. “We’re hoping we will get a report on that subject sometime soon.”
It’s uncertain when the panel will issue a final report. Burr told The Associated Press earlier this month that he hopes to be finished with the investigation by the end of the year.
The subpoena has highlighted a delicate bind facing Burr, a third-term senator who has said he is not running for reelection in 2022. He has been adamant that the panel’s Russia probe be bipartisan and fair and has worked closely with the panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.
Burr’s committee had renewed interest in talking to Trump Jr. after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told a House committee in February that he had briefed Trump Jr. approximately 10 times about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow before the presidential election. Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a separate interview in 2017 he was only “peripherally aware” of the proposal.
The panel is also interested in talking to the president’s eldest son about other topics, including a campaign meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer.
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