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Political Consultant Roger Stone Makes Uncharacteristically Silent Court Appearance


President Trump's longtime confidante Roger Stone, the white-haired, larger-than-life political consultant, was back in a Washington courtroom today. Stone is not known for being afraid to talk, but today he was uncharacteristically silent. The judge presiding over his case has warned she may impose a gag order. NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here now to talk more about it. Hi, Carrie.


SHAPIRO: You were in the courtroom this afternoon. What's the takeaway?

JOHNSON: The Judge, Amy Berman Jackson, says she's thinking about a gag order. She's giving both sides a week until next Friday to file court papers setting out their position on the issue. Here's the bottom line. The judge says this is a criminal proceeding, not a PR campaign. And it's her job to protect Roger Stone's right to a fair trial and to protect the lawyers and the witnesses.

She says that prosecutors could use any inconsistent statements that Roger Stone makes against him as a weapon at the trial, and Roger Stone has expressed some concern about a gag order in the past because he makes a living through political commentary. But the judge pointed out if she imposes a gag, Stone can still talk about immigration and foreign relations and even New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady if he wants to.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Phew, well, OK, before the talk about gag orders, Roger Stone gave a press conference here in D.C. yesterday. What did he have to say?

JOHNSON: Roger Stone appeared at a Washington hotel here booked by Infowars, the conspiracy site and radio show. Roger Stone says he's tired since his arrest last week, but he's going to mount a vigorous defense to these seven criminal charges. They include obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress. Roger Stone says he never intentionally lied to Congress or investigators there, and then he had this to say about the president.


ROGER STONE: I don't possess any knowledge of any wrongdoing by the president of the United States, including Russian collusion.

JOHNSON: Now, of course the indictment against Stone mentions his contacts with WikiLeaks and with senior officials in the Trump campaign. But it does not explicitly name the president, and it does not, at least for now, include conspiracy charges.

SHAPIRO: Carrie, the public interest in the Roger Stone case has been extraordinary, stoked in part by Stone himself. When might a trial actually happen?

JOHNSON: Well, the government lawyer - the lead government lawyer, Michael Marando, says the evidence in this case is voluminous - lots of electronic devices and other evidence the FBI has to review. It's a complex case, so the exchange of material between the government and the defense is going to take a while, and that's going to happen under a protective order to protect those sensitive materials from getting out into the public.

Both sides are now due back in court March 14. As for the trial, the judge says she was thinking about July or August. The government said it was thinking more like October. Remember; this judge, Judge Jackson, has been through all of this before. She was getting ready last year for the trial of Roger Stone's former business partner Paul Manafort until he pleaded guilty. So she knows the drill here, and she wants to be in charge of this proceeding.

SHAPIRO: Part of the upshot here I guess is that for all of the talk about whether Mueller is almost done with his investigation, the trials coming out of this investigation are nowhere near done.

JOHNSON: Nowhere near done, Ari. And a prosecutor for the special counsel, Jeannie Rhee, said earlier this week that Roger Stone will be tried jointly between the special counsel team and people in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., perhaps setting the stage for some kind of handoff in the future.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thank you, Carrie.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.