Special Counsel Denies Leaking Stone Charges to Press

WASHINGTON (CN) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office pushed back Friday on claims that it prematurely released the indictment against Roger Stone, saying it followed court instructions and did not tip off the media to Stone’s arrest last month.

In this June 21, 2017, photo, Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs Capitol Hill following a closed-door meeting. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Stone earlier this month asked a federal judge to look into whether Mueller’s office violated a court order sealing the indictment against Stone, who was arrested last month on charges of lying to Congress.

Stone claimed Mueller released a draft copy of the indictment before Stone was actually arrested, violating the order and allowing cameras to catch the FBI raid of his Florida home just after 6 a.m. on Jan. 25.

But in a five-page filing Friday, Mueller said Stone’s timeline is mixed up. Rather than being released ahead of time, the indictment was unsealed at 6:10 a.m., 10 minutes after Stone had been arrested.

This was entirely consistent with the conditions a magistrate judge put in place for the unsealing of the indictment, according to the response brief.

“The order does not state, as many unsealing orders do, that the indictment shall remain sealed until further order of the court,” the filing states. “Rather, the order conditioned the unsealing of the indictment on one event: the defendant’s arrest.”

Mueller’s office says it notified the press a few minutes after the indictment became public.

The filing also refutes Stone’s claims that reporters had early access to the indictment, noting CNN, which captured Stone’s arrest on camera, has publicly said its reporters staked out multiple places that morning after noticing “unusual grand jury activity” in a Washington, D.C., courthouse the day before.

“The Special Counsel’s Office is aware of no information indicating that reporters were given any advance knowledge of a possible indictment from the Special Counsel’s Office,” it states.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was not satisfied with Mueller’s response, saying in an order Friday that the Special Counsel’s Office did not exactly answer her question.

Jackson ordered Mueller to file by Tuesday another document indicating the time at which the Special Counsel’s Office posted the indictment to the website and when it emailed out the document. It also must attach documentation of these times.

Mueller’s filing comes a day after a Judge Jackson tightened a gag order barring Stone from speaking about the case after he posted a picture online of the judge with the apparent crosshairs of a gun near her head.

In a reply later on Friday, Stone said Mueller’s response left out the detail that the court, not Mueller’s office, was to determine when the indictment was unsealed.

Stone, a longtime Republican political operative and former confidant of President Donald Trump, is accused of obstruction and lying to Congress about his work seeking information about hacked emails WikiLeaks published that were damaging to Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. 

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