Roger Stone once said that cutting off his access to the press would be like asking him “not to breath any air, or eat any food.”
Talking to reporters, he told documentary filmmakers, “is what I do.”
Now, that addiction could land Stone in jail.
Stone, one of President Trump's oldest political advisers, appears to be testing the limits of a gag order on his case after posting on Instagram Sunday that he was “framed” and penning a new book introduction in which he calls Robert Mueller a “crooked” investigator with a “hit list.” Mueller’s prosecutors alerted the judge to those activities in a court filing submitted Monday.
Team Mueller indicted Stone in January for allegedly lying to Congress about his efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks, which published stolen Democratic documents during the 2016 election.
“I expect him to get locked up,” said Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor based in Washington, D.C. Waxman's prosecuted cases before Amy Berman Jackson, the judge who slapped Stone with the gag order on Feb. 21, and says she's no wallflower. “When she gave that last warning to him, I think that was it. She does not suffer fools.”
While the judge initially allowed Stone, 66, to speak out publicly about the case, she eventually ordered him gagged on Feb. 21 after he posted an image on Instagram that featured her own head next to what looked like gun crosshairs. Stone apologized, and told the judge he’d initially thought the cross was just some kind of “Celtic occult symbol.”
Judge Jackson warned Stone on Feb. 21 that she might be compelled to “adjust” his “environment” if he couldn’t resist the temptation to speak out about the case — meaning she might revoke his bail and send him to jail.
“Today I gave you a second chance,” Jackson told Stone. “But this is not baseball. There will not be a third chance.”
The Instagram and book introduction incidents follow Stone’s comments to VICE News and other outlets last week about Michael Cohen’s televised congressional testimony saying Stone had a phone call with Trump in July 2016 about the pending release of hacked Democratic documents. In an emailed response to VICE News, Stone wrote on Feb. 27: “Mr. Cohen's testimony is entirely untrue.”
“When she gave that last warning to him, I think that was it. She does not suffer fools.”
Jackson is the same judge who sent President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to jail in June 2018, revoking his bail over accusations that he tried to improperly communicate with potential witnesses against him ahead of his trial.
Stone’s lawyers had submitted a sealed document to the court on Friday giving the judge a heads-up about the new book introduction, and in a terse response the same day, she demanded to know why Stone didn’t tell her about it sooner.
Stone’s lawyers replied late Monday night that the new introduction was written and submitted in January — weeks before the gag order was issued — and that Stone had no control over its forthcoming publication, set for Feb. 19.
Mueller’s team chimed in Monday to let the judge know she could already download the new book introduction directly from Amazon or Google Books — and included screenshots to save her the trouble. But Mueller’s prosecutors didn’t directly accuse Stone of violating the gag order.
Mueller’s team also included a grab of a since-deleted Instagram post from Stone’s account that featured his picture underneath the banner text: “Who framed Roger Stone.”
Former prosecutors following Stone’s case said he appears to be testing his luck, and may well wind up in jail as a result.
“Roger Stone is really pushing the limits with the judge on the gag order,” said Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “At some point, she can only conclude that he is refusing to comply with the orders of the court.”
Judge Jackson’s gag order bars Stone from speaking “publicly about the investigation, or the case, or any of the participants in the investigation or the case. Period.”
But it allows for some exceptions: The rule lets Stone raise funds, publicly maintain his innocence and speak about unrelated matters.
“Roger Stone is really pushing the limits with the judge on the gag order.”
“You may send out as many emails, tweets, posts as you choose that say 'Please donate to the Roger Stone defense fund,” Jackson said, according to a transcript of the hearing. “And you may add that you deny or are innocent of the charges, but that’s the extent of it.”
A date hasn’t been set for the start of Stone’s trial, which prosecutors have said they expect will take approximately five to eight days to complete.
Cover: Former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, leaves federal court in Washington, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)