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Judge warns Roger Stone not to treat trial like a ‘public relations campaign’ as she considers gag order

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A U.S. judge said on Friday she is considering imposing a gag order on President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, who has spoken numerous times to news organizations in the week since he was charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the ongoing Russia investigation.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said during a hearing in Washington she is considering a gag order on both Stone and the prosecution. The judge cited a number of “extrajudicial statements by the defendant” and noted that “this is a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign.”

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Stone was charged with making false statements to Congress, obstruction of an official proceeding and witness tampering in an indictment secured by Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election and whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow.

Jackson said if she did impose a gag order, Stone would still be able to talk to the media about issues unrelated to Muller’s criminal case against him. The judge gave both sides until Feb. 8 to file briefs on whether they would oppose such an order.

Stone can “discuss foreign relations, immigration or Tom Brady as much as he wants to,” the judge said, referring to the star New England Patriots quarterback.

Arrested in Florida on Jan. 25, Stone pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in Washington.

Jackson previously imposed a similar gag order on Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted by a Virginia jury last year of financial wrongdoing charges brought by Mueller and pleaded guilty to other charges in Washington.

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Criminal defendants typically shun the media spotlight. But Stone, a 66-year-old self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” and Republican political operative since the days of the Watergate scandal that forced his former boss President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974, has embraced it since his arrest.

The indictment accused Stone of telling unidentified members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team 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.

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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.”

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“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.

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The Stone’s indictment refers to two people with whom he is accused of communicating in an effort to get more information about Wikileaks’ plans for future releases of hacked Democratic emails. Jerome Corsi, a right-wing political commentator and conspiracy theorist, previously confirmed to Reuters he is “Person 1” referenced in the indictment.

“I’m sorry Roger has been talking like he has been. I don’t have anything against Roger. He’d be well advised to be more careful,” Corsi told Reuters “… I wish Roger would just say less.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Will Dunham)


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Ethics committee warns sitting federal judges not to affiliate with the Federalist Society

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On Wednesday, the Judicial Conference's Codes of Conduct Committee, a national panel of high-ranking federal judges responsible for policy-making on U.S. courts, released a draft advisory opinion warning federal judges against affiliating with the Federalist Society, one of the nation's foremost associations of conservative and libertarian lawyers.

The opinion also singled out the American Constitution Society (ACS), the Federalist Society's progressive counterpart.

"The Committee advises that formal affiliation with the ACS or the Federalist Society, whether as a member or in a leadership role, is inconsistent with Canons 1, 2, 4, and 5 of the Code," stated the opinion. "Official affiliation with either organization could convey to a reasonable person that the affiliated judge endorses the views and particular ideological perspectives advocated by the organization; call into question the affiliated judge's impartiality on subjects as to which the organization has taken a position; and generally frustrate the public's trust in the integrity and independence of the judiciary."

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Donald Trump’s Secretary of State apparently thinks Spanish is spoken in Lebanon

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The president of United States is often criticized for getting his facts wrong, especially when it comes to understanding the world.

Trump made up the country of "Nambia" while not knowing that Bhutan and Nepal (which he pronounced "nipple") are real countries. He said the country of Belgium "is a beautiful city" and once told the prime minister of India that the country does not share a border with China (their shared border is 2,500 miles).

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Jason Crow lays out the human cost of Trump’s Ukraine scheme — citing his military experience

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On the second day of the impeachment trial, Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), a veteran and one of the House impeachment managers, clearly laid out the risk that President Donald Trump's Ukraine scheme posed to human life — and drew from his own experience in the military.

"I know something about counter-battery radar," said Crow. "In 2005 I was an Army Ranger serving in a special operations task force in Afghanistan. We were at a remote operating base along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And frequently, the insurgents that we were fighting would launch rockets and missiles onto our small base. But luckily we were provided with counter-battery radar. The 20, 30, 40 seconds before those rockets and mortars rained down on us, an alarm would sound, and we would run out from our tents and jump into our concrete bunkers and wait for the attack to end. This is not a theoretical exercise, and the Ukrainians know it."

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