A federal judge on Friday demanded that Roger Stone explain why she should not find he violated a court gag order and his release terms pending trial after prosecutors criticized his recent social media posts attacking the FBI and Robert S. Mueller III’s special counsel probe.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington gave attorneys for the longtime Trump confidant until Thursday to explain Stone’s actions, after which she could set a hearing or weigh further restrictions on his liberty including jailing pending his November trial.
Jackson did not elaborate, but a one-sentence notice in the court’s electronic docket stated Stone “must show cause in writing” why he should not be found in violation.
Prosecutors led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis on Thursday filed a motion with the court requesting a hearing, arguing Stone’s posts breached an order that he not comment “in the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.”
Postings in Stone’s Instagram this week included photos of commentators referring to the “Russia Hoax” and claiming Stone’s defense has exposed “the ‘intelligence community’s’ betrayal of their responsibilities” and revealed “deeply disturbing lessons about the level of corruption at the top levels of the agencies charged with protecting us from external threats.”
Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying about his efforts to gather information about Democratic Party emails hacked and leaked by Russian operatives in 2016.
In a statement, Stone’s attorney Bruce Rogow called the government’s filing “ill-advised and an astonishing overreaching.” The statement said, “We are disappointed in, and surprised by, the Government’s unrealized fears. Mr. Stone has limited his comments to matters widely reported in the news or public court filings.”
Jackson in February imposed a gag order after Stone, a longtime Republican operative and media commentator, posted an image on Instagram that appeared to show the judge’s photo near crosshairs and accused her and “Deep State hit man” Mueller of bias by arranging for her to preside over his “show trial.”
Jackson ordered Stone not to speak publicly about the investigation or case against him, saying he was “fanning the flames” and using his public platform “to incite others who may be less constrained.”
Jackson warned Stone that, if he violated the order in any way, she would order him to jail.
At issue in Stone’s latest postings is his allegation that Mueller prosecutors in search warrants in his case relied on unproven assumptions that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic Party emails and their release to WikiLeaks and other groups.
His defense has asked the court to suppress evidence gathered through the searches in his trial on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering connected to his efforts to gather information about the emails gathered in hacks on the Democratic National Committee and others.
Stone’s Instagram posts refer to his claim that prosecutors, in obtaining search warrants, improperly relied on redacted reports issued by CrowdStrike, the private cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the June 2016 attack. He has said they should turn over unredacted versions of the reports because they could help his defense.
Jackson has not yet ruled on Stone’s requests.
In a separate court filing Thursday, U.S. prosecutors wrote, “Stone’s statement that the government has no other evidence is not only irrelevant to this proceeding but is also mistaken.” They pointed to the special counsel’s indictment of members of the GRU, a Russian military intelligence agency, in the hack on Democratic organizations and added that in Stone’s indictment the references to the firm’s statements about the DNC hack were made as background.
Stone’s claims and those of his supporters also deny a central finding of Mueller’s investigation: Moscow’s primary role in the “sweeping and systemic” cyber interference effort.
Prosecutors asked Jackson to set a hearing saying Stone’s posts “appear calculated” to generate news coverage that could taint potential jurors “with information that is not relevant but that may appear, to some, to be relevant.”
Stone’s defense is expected to respond in court.