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After indictment, pressure on Stone is ‘significant,’ says former prosecutor

Former Trump adviser Roger Stone has been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on seven counts, including obstructing an investigation, making false statements and tampering with a witness. The indictment focuses on the relationship with WikiLeaks head Julian Assange and damaging emails released by WikiLeaks. Nick Schifrin reports and discusses with former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to our other lead story tonight.

    That is special counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of President Trump's longtime adviser Roger Stone on seven counts. The charges raise new questions about the link between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks' efforts to tilt the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton.

    Nick Schifrin reports.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, outside a Florida courtroom, in front of a raucous crowd, the man who brags about having the ear of the president luxuriated in the spotlight.

  • Roger Stone:

    The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Roger Stone was surrounded by some well-wishers…

  • Woman:

    Go, Roger!

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And a chorus of critics.

  • Protesters:

    Lock him up!

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Just hours after he was arrested in his South Florida home, as seen on CNN.

    Shortly after that, special counsel Robert Mueller's office unsealed an indictment that charges Stone with one count of obstructing an investigation, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering.

  • Roger Stone:

    I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court. I believe this is a politically motivated investigation.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The indictment focuses on the relationship with WikiLeaks head Julian Assange and damaging e-mails released by WikiLeaks.

  • Woman:

    WikiLeaks has released what appears to be transcripts.

  • Man:

    Now, these WikiLeaks' releases have rocked the campaign.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In 2016, WikiLeaks published e-mails U.S. intelligence says were stolen by Russia from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the DNC.

    Today's indictment suggests the Trump campaign was aware of WikiLeaks' releases beforehand. "Stone spoke to senior Trump campaign officials about Organization 1," a reference to WikiLeaks, "and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign," the indictment says. "Stone thereafter told the Trump campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1."

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

    This has nothing to do with the president.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried to distance the president from the indictment.

    The president himself tweeted: "Greatest witch-hunt in the history of our country. No collusion. Border coyotes, drug dealers and human traffickers are treated better."

    But since the Mueller investigation began almost two years ago, the president's former campaign chair has been convicted, his deputy campaign chair, national security adviser, and personal attorney have pleaded guilty, and now his longtime political adviser and friend has been charged.

  • Roger Stone:

    I made the case that the accusation that I knew about John Podesta's e-mail hack in advance was false.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The indictment accuses Stone of lying in September 2017 to the House Intelligence Committee. The indictment says: "Stone made deliberately false and misleading statements to the committee concerning, among other things, his possession of documents and his communications with the Trump campaign."

    Stone claimed he hadn't kept documents or talked with the campaign, but the indictment cites an October 4, 2016 e-mail: "Stone told a high-ranking Trump campaign official that Assange had a serious security concern, but would release a load of e-mails every week going forward."

    Just before that, in August 2016, Stone praised Assange on C-SPAN.

  • Roger Stone:

    Well, first of all, I think Julian Assange is a hero. I think he's taking on the deep state. No, I have not spoken to Mr. Assange. I have not met with Mr. Assange. And I never said I had. I said we communicated through an intermediary, somebody who is a mutual friend.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today's indictment also accuses Stone of trying to intimidate that intermediary, believed to be comedian Randy Credico, and trying to get him to lie to Congress. On multiple occasions, Stone told Person 2, believed to be Credico, that Person 2 should do a Frank Pentangeli.

  • Actor:

    I don't know nothing.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    A reference to a "Godfather II" character that tells Congress he doesn't know critical information that he did in fact know.

  • Roger Stone:

    My name is Roger Stone, and I'm an agent provocateur.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Stone is a self-proclaimed dirty trickster, an outspoken fan of former President Richard Nixon, and a longtime Republican prince of the dark arts, or opposition research. He documents his style in the 2017 Netflix film "Get Me Roger Stone."

  • Roger Stone:

    It is better to be infamous than never be famous at all.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    He's known Mr. Trump for three decades. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who himself appeared in court today for a hearing related to Robert Mueller's investigation, described in the same film how close Stone was to Trump.

  • Paul Manafort:

    Roger's relationship with Trump has been so interconnected that it's hard to define what's Roger and what's Donald.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, this longtime Trump confidant said he would appear in a D.C. court next week, and vowed to keep fighting, as he has been for five decades.

    And for more, I'm joined now by Renato Mariotti. He served as a federal prosecutor focusing on white-collar crimes, and is now a defense attorney in Chicago.

    Thank you very much for joining us today.

    Roger Stone was indicted today for actions related to the House Intelligence Committee investigation. Doesn't the president and his spokeswoman have a point when they say this isn't about the president or the White House?

  • Renato Mariotti:

    They certainly have a point, because the president wasn't indicted today, and no member of his administration was indicted today, and also, as you point out, these are crimes that are related to Roger Stone's obstructive activity.

    Obviously, a counterpoint would be, you just — we just saw a moment ago the reporting that was done and the video that was shown of Paul Manafort this is a close associate of the president of the United States.

    And, according to the indictment, at times, he was taking actions under the direction of senior members of the president's campaign. And this is the cover-up, essentially. This is him trying to hide those activities.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Is there a question about why these charges are limited, no talk of conspiracy, for example, not even saying contacts with WikiLeaks are illegal?

  • Renato Mariotti:


    I mean, prosecutors, like when I was a former prosecutor, we try to charge narrowly drawn crimes, for a couple reasons. One, the burden of proof is very high. So to prove that Mr. Stone conspired with Russian intelligence or conspired with WikiLeaks, you would have to prove that he agreed with somebody there to commit a crime together with them, beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And that's not an easy thing to do, because these are agreements that aren't memorialized in written contracts, typically. So, here, Mueller's able to prove a more narrow crime, and then at sentencing the judge could consider all of Stone's conduct.

    The way our federal sentencing laws work is that the judge is required to consider anything that prosecutors can prove by a 51 percent standard, as long as they get a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Does that mean part of this is putting pressure on Roger Stone and his attorneys to perhaps consider flipping?

  • Renato Mariotti:

    No question.

    One of the, you know, key moves here is to put as much pressure as possible on Stone and get him to change his mind. Now, obviously, the president for some reason is very eager for Stone not to flip. He's mentioned in the past that Stone was — had guts for not flipping.

    But the pressure here is significant for Stone. He's looking at a sentence at least in the — in the 15-to-21 month range, potentially 41 to 51 months, depending on how the judge calculated the sentencing guidelines. And it could go up.

    There was a search warrant executed at his house earlier today. Mueller's continuing to investigate. And perhaps this indictment could cause others to come forward.

    So, if I was Stone's attorney, I would be concerned. And if you can't get a pardon, flipping is the next best option.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    What would Roger Stone's and his attorney likely case be against this indictment?

  • Renato Mariotti:

    So, if that — it'll be a challenge for them.

    I mean, if my — if I represented Stone, my first job would be to get him to stop talking. If Stone had stopped talking as soon as he was under investigation by Mueller, he wouldn't be in this mess, because he's in this mess because he was pressuring Credico to lie and because he told lies to the House Intelligence Committee.

    So, Stone is continuing to talk. He needs to keep his mouth shut. And if I was his attorney, frankly, I think it'll be hard to defend some of these charges, unless there's something, some really unexplained ball to drop here. This looks like pretty damning evidence.

    So my focus would be either trying to get a pardon from President Trump or, alternatively, trying to work out a deal with prosecutors where he would — he would plead guilty to one crime, get — for example, lying to Congress, get a cooperation deal, and get them to agree that there's not sufficient evidence to indicate that he physically threatened Credico, which is what would dramatically increase his sentence.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor, thank you very much.

  • Renato Mariotti:

    Thank you.

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