By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone made multiple media appearances in Washington on Thursday, talking freely with reporters before he was set to appear in court on Friday and likely face a gag order from a judge.
Charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller with obstructing a congressional probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Stone will appear before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is widely expected to bar him from discussing the case in the press after imposing a similar gag order on Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Criminal defendants typically shun the media spotlight, but Stone, a 66-year-old self-proclaimed Republican “dirty trickster,” has embraced it since his arrest on Jan. 25 in Florida.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, making false statements to Congress and witness tampering.
The indictment alleged Stone told several unidentified members of Trump’s 2016 campaign that he had advance knowledge of plans by the WikiLeaks website to release damaging emails about Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Stone lied to Congress about those interactions and misled the congressional panel about his efforts to learn more about WikiLeaks’ planned releases, the indictment said.
On Thursday, Stone dismissed the charges as mere “process crimes” that did not involve any intentional lies, and called Mueller’s probe politically motivated.
“Perjury requires both intent and materiality,” Stone told Reuters in an interview, adding that any failure to disclose emails or text messages was just an “honest mistake.”
“I testified truthfully on any matter of importance,” he said.
Stone is the 34th person to be swept up into Mueller’s probe into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. Trump denies any collusion and has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt. Russia denies meddling in the election.
Stone said he did not even know for sure which Trump campaign officials were being referenced in the indictment and that he was never directed by the campaign to learn about future releases by WikiLeaks.
A court filing on Thursday showed Mueller’s investigators had collected several terabytes of evidence from multiple electronic devices.
Stone said he did not yet know what other evidence Mueller might possess. While expressing confidence in his innocence, he was not so confident about the outcome of the case.
“It’s the District of Columbia. It’s a difficult venue,” he said. “I certainly face an extraordinary and epic fight.”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)