Roger Stone’s defense fired a volley of legal attacks at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, asking a federal judge to dismiss Stone’s indictment for lying to Congress and obstructing justice and to order that Stone receive a full unredacted copy of Mueller’s recently completed report.
“No other person, Committee, or entity has Stone’s constitutionally based standing to demand the complete, unredacted Report,” Stone’s attorneys argued in court filings late Friday on behalf of the longtime confidant of President Trump. Only then “can he determine whether the Report contains material which could be critical to his defense,” or if he was selectively prosecuted, they wrote in a series of motions.
Stone, 66, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied about his efforts to gather information about Democratic Party emails hacked by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign and released through anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and others.
He has been released on personal recognizance pending trial Nov. 5 scheduled in Washington.
Stone’s Jan. 25 indictment marked the last criminal charges brought by prosecutors in Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Mueller on March 22 notified Attorney General William P. Barr of the investigation’s end.
Prosecutors have until May 3 to answer Stone’s flurry of legal objections, which are typical at this stage of a criminal trial and included challenges to the funding of Mueller’s office and to Mueller’s authorization as special counsel — an objection courts have rejected several times when raised previously by other defendants in Mueller’s probe.
The blast of motions suggests how Stone’s case could grind on this summer, even as prosecutors with U.S. attorney’s offices in New York, Virginia and Washington continue to tie up loose threads from the special counsel’s probe, including other referrals by Mueller’s office and investigations that remain under seal.
Stone’s filing came one day after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was expelled from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and arrested on unsealed, year-old U.S. charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network before his organization in 2010 published a historic trove of classified U.S. documents online.
Attorneys for Stone asked a judge Friday to toss out a seven-count indictment in which Mueller’s prosecutors alleged Stone was in frequent contact with members of Trump’s campaign about the WikiLeaks effort to release materials damaging to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election.
A focus of Mueller’s probe of Stone, court filings show, was whether he coordinated with Assange or WikiLeaks as it published thousands of Democratic emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives. Barr said last month in a brief summary of Mueller’s report that the special counsel reported its investigation did not establish that Trump campaign members “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government’s interference activities.
Stone was not charged with any crimes related to communicating with WikiLeaks about its activities, and he has repeatedly denied that he conspired with the group.
The 24-page indictment of Stone alleged that a senior Trump campaign official was directed by an unnamed person to contact Stone as soon as WikiLeaks began publishing Democratic emails.
The indictment also asserts Stone communicated about WikiLeaks with “a high ranking Trump Campaign official,” whose emails in the filing match those of former campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon. And, according to prosecutors, Stone received a query about the group’s activities from a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign.”
Stone in past interviews denied discussing WikiLeaks with Trump campaign officials or having advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans and said he was just passing on public information and tips.
In Friday’s filings, Stone’s defense, led by attorney Robert C. Buschel, argued that in the absence of a congressional referral, his indictment by the special counsel’s office for lying to Congress violated the Constitution’s separation of powers clause; that his prosecution was not constitutionally funded because Congress did not specifically appropriate funds for special counsel offices; and that Congress has not explicitly provided that the special counsel can investigate a president or his presidential campaign.
“Nothing could encroach more upon the President’s duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed than having a Special Prosecutor continually looking over his shoulder, threatening him or the members of his executive branch with potential prosecution for every act they take,” Stone’s lawyers wrote.
The president’s powers are at their “zenith” in dealings with hostile powers, such as Russia, they added, in arguing for Mueller’s appointment to be struck down and all evidence gathered to be suppressed.
Stone also brought anew claims that Mueller’s May 2017 designation by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself, violated the appointments clause of the Constitution, because the special counsel should have been nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
A three-judge appeals court panel in Washington in February unanimously rejected a similar challenge brought by Andrew Miller, an associate of Stone’s who has been trying to block a grand jury subpoena. Miller on Friday filed a petition seeking a rehearing before a full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals by the District of Columbia Circuit.
Also on Friday, U.S. prosecutors filed their opposition to a petition by news organizations, including The Washington Post, to unseal materials for search warrants in Stone’s case, arguing that the materials “concern investigations that remain ongoing,” Stone’s trial and uncharged third parties.