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Trump confidant Roger Stone, indicted by Mueller, pleads not guilty

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AFP Washington
Longtime Donald Trump advisor Roger Stone pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges stemming from the ongoing investigation into whether the US president's campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.
Stone, 66, is charged with lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction in relation to his contacts with WikiLeaks, whose publication of embarrassing Russian-hacked communications from Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign gave a boost to Trump.
Stone, a veteran Republican consultant who prides himself on his reputation as a political dirty trickster, entered a not guilty plea to the seven charges during a brief appearance in federal court in Washington.
He did not speak to reporters following the arraignment and is to appear in court again on Friday.
Following his arrest last week, he said he was the victim of a "politically-motivated investigation" and said he would not testify against Trump because he "would have to bear false witness against him."

Stone is the sixth campaign associate of Trump indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 vote.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Moscow and denounced the probe by Mueller, a former FBI director, as a "political witch hunt." He has condemned members of the Mueller team as a bunch of "angry Democrats" and has dangled the possibility of pardons for some of those indicted.
Stone arrived in court on a chilly winter morning to chants of "Lock him up" from protesters.
One waved a Russia flag and another held up a sign reading "Dirty Traitor." A pro-Stone demonstrator displayed a poster calling for contributions to a Stone Defense Fund while another held a sign reading "Free Stone, Fire Mueller."

The Mueller probe was launched in May 2017. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday that it was close to being wrapped up although there has been no confirmation of this from the tight-lipped Special Counsel's office.
Stone, who launched his career as a campaign aide to Richard Nixon and has a tattoo on his back of the first US president to resign from office, has spent decades advising political campaigns.
His association with Trump dates back to 1979, and he was one of the first to enlist when the billionaire real estate magnate launched his run for the presidency in 2015.
Stone left the campaign months later but the indictment shows he remained in active communication with Trump's team, providing support and information.
The charges arose from Stone's alleged lies in testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 involving his communications with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published material stolen by Russian hackers from the Clinton campaign.
The indictment said Stone discussed his communications with Assange with "senior officials" of the campaign who wanted him to obtain information about what WikiLeaks had on Clinton and when it would release it.
Mueller's team has indicted a total of 34 people -- but so far, no charges of outright collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow have been filed.
Besides Stone, Mueller has indicted five others who were close to Trump and the campaign: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and George Papadopoulos.
Manafort, 69, who served as Trump's campaign chairman for several months in 2016, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to tax and bank fraud connected to his work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
Gates, 46, Trump's deputy campaign manager, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and financial fraud.
Flynn, 60, a retired US Army general who stepped down after three weeks as Trump's national security advisor, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
Cohen, 52, Trump's longtime personal attorney, was sentenced to three years in prison in December after pleading guilty to tax evasion, violating campaign finance laws, making false statements to Congress and other crimes.
Papadopoulos, 31, an oil industry analyst who served on Trump's foreign policy advisory team, was sentenced to two weeks in prison after admitting he lied to the FBI.
In June 2018, Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked with Manafort in Ukraine and allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence, was charged with obstruction of justice.
Mueller has also charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic Party emails and 13 other Russians with engaging in an online campaign to influence US voters in the 2016 election.

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First Published: Jan 29 2019 | 11:25 PM IST

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