House Democrats cranked up the heat on President Donald Trump on Friday after the indictment of Trump campaign associate Roger Stone, alluding in tweets to possible future impeachment proceedings against Trump and referencing the Watergate scandal that led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.
“Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn... What did the President know and when did he know it?” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler tweeted, quoting then-Sen. Howard Baker, the Republican ranking member of the Senate Watergate Committee who had previously promised Nixon he would be his “friend" but later turned on the president.
Stone was indicted Thursday and arrested early Friday on charges that he sought stolen emails at the direction of a “senior Trump Campaign official” to damage opponent Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Stone was charged by a Washington, D.C., grand jury on seven charges, including obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office announced.
According to the indictment, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact” Stone for more information on the Wikileaks email dumps, though the indictment does not specify who gave that original directive.
“Who directs a senior ‘Trump Campaign Official?’ ONLY a more senior campaign official,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, tweeted.
Who directs a senior “Trump Campaign Official?” ONLY a more senior campaign official. #RogerStone— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) January 25, 2019
In an interview on CNN on Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to answer whether Trump orchestrated the unnamed campaign official’s coordination with Stone.
“I’m not an attorney. I’m not able to get into the weeds on this subject,” Sanders said.
“This has nothing to do with the president — and nothing to do with the White House,” she said of Stone’s indictment, before suggesting former FBI Director James B. Comey and Hillary Clinton could be accused of making similar false statements.
Democrats on Friday disputed Sanders’ claims.
The indictment “shows further evidence of collusion/conspiracy” by the 2016 Trump campaign, Rep. Joaquin Castro, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, tweeted.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Adriano Espaillat tweeted that “all roads [from the Mueller investigation] lead to Trump,” citing the indictment, guilty verdict, and guilty plea of Stone, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, respectively.
The indictment alleges Stone lied to Congress about communications he had with the Trump campaign about his contact with Wikileaks, which posted private emails from Democratic organizations.
The indictment surrounds Stone’s efforts to make contact with Wikileaks after it released a trove of emails from the Democratic National Committee in July of 2016. Multiple Trump campaign officials worked with Stone as he tried to make inroads with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, prosecutors publicized for the first time in Friday’s indictment.
“After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign,” Mueller’s team wrote in the indictment.
Stone’s lawyer, Grant Smith, dismissed the charges in a statement to The New York Times, calling them “ridiculous.”
“This is all about a minor charge about lying to Congress about something that was apparently found later,” Smith said.
The indictment charges that Stone lied multiple times in his Sept. 26, 2017, testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired at the time by GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California.
In the course of his testimony, Stone allegedly made “deliberately false and misleading statements to the committee” about whether he possessed documents that pertained to the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election; the identity of a “mutual friend” of him and Assange who served as a “go-between” to relay information back to Stone about how Wikileaks planned to release the stolen emails; his communications with the mutual friend and go-between; requests he made of Assange for certain information; and his communications with the Trump campaign about Wikileaks.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff pointed out Friday that Stone is the second person in Mueller's investigation to be charged for lying to his committee.
"These prosecutions should make it abundantly clear that those who appear before congressional investigators and attempt to mislead us will be held to account," Schiff said in a statement.
"Neither we nor the Special Counsel will tolerate efforts by any person to impede any investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, nor to pressure a witness to withhold testimony from or mislead Congress," Schiff said.
Stone was also charged with witness tampering after he allegedly tried to intimidate a New York radio host before the radio host’s congressional testimony as part of the Russia probe.
Stone has said that the radio host and progressive activist, Randy Credico, was his go-between with Assange, though Credico has denied that he was the person in such a role.
In text messages to Credico in the fall and winter of 2017, Stone quoted Richard Nixon and referenced "The Godfather: Part II" as he tried to persuade Credico to be uncooperative with congressional investigators and not to contradict his testimony that Credico had served as the intermediary between Stone and Assange about the stolen emails.
“‘Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan’ . . . Richard Nixon,” Stone texted Credico in November 2017, a reference to the Nixon tapes" in which the 37th president urged members of his inner circle to obstruct the Watergate investigations.
On “multiple occasions,” according to prosecutors, Stone urged Credico to pull a “Frank Pentangeli.” The special counsel describes Frank Pentangeli as “a character in the film The Godfather: Part II, which both STONE and Person 2 had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims not to know critical information that he does in fact know.”
Stone was arrested at his home in Florida and is scheduled to make a first appearance later Friday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.
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