Judge warns Roger Stone not to treat trial like a 'public relations campaign' as she considers gag order
Roger Stone at Book Signing Party for "The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution". (Cornelius O'Donoghue / Shutterstock.com)

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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)