WASHINGTON — Special Counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors denied that they prematurely released a draft of the indictment of Roger Stone and said claims that CNN was tipped off to his arrest are “without merit.”
Stone was arrested on Jan. 25 on charges of giving misleading testimony to Congress and intimidating a witness, but his attorneys asked the judge in his case, Amy Berman Jackson, to look into the actions of federal prosecutors.
In a filing on Friday in federal court in Washington, Mueller’s team said they adhered to a court order that the indictment was not to be unsealed until the defendant was in custody. It was posted to the Justice Department website around 6:13 a.m., according to reporters who were covering the story, and later in the morning on PACER, the electronic database of federal court filings.
“Consistent with its regular practice, within a few minutes of receiving confirmation of the defendant’s arrest, the Special Counsel’s Office posted the charging document on the SCO website and notified press outlets of the arrest and that the indictment was available online,” prosecutors said in their filing.
“Once the Clerk’s Office opened later that morning and the Court was notified of the arrest, the indictment was entered onto the public docket and a copy of the docketed indictment was made available to the public via PACER.”
Jackson still wants questions answered about the timing of the public release of the indictment. Later on Friday, she asked that prosecutors answer a series of questions, including the time that it posted the indictment “on its website with text indicating that the defendant ‘was arrested’? At what time did the government send an email with ‘the same text’ including a link to the indictment on the SCO website, and to whom was it addressed?”
According to Stone’s attorneys, a CNN news crew arrived at his home at 4:58 a.m. that morning and set up a camera in the street. The FBI arrested him at 6:06 a.m., and a reporter for CNN called Stone’s attorney and informed him of the arrest. The reporter sent the attorney a text message at 6:22 a.m. with a “draft copy of the still sealed indictment.”
His attorneys say that prosecutors first had to inform the court of Stone’s arrest before the indictment was unsealed.
“The government also presumes it decides when the Court’s purpose has been met andcan release a draft of a document still under seal,” Stone’s legal team wrote in response to prosecutors’ filing.
President Donald Trump and others have speculated that CNN was tipped off about the arrest, and they have accused federal authorities of overreach in the early morning raid of Stone’s house. “Who alerted CNN to be there?” Trump wrote in a tweet.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month, acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker said it was “deeply concerning to me as to how CNN found out” about Stone’s arrest.
Mueller’s team, though, said the timeline that Stone’s attorneys lay out in the case “refutes his unfounded assertion that the media received a copy of his indictment before his arrest.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper said in a segment on his primetime show that the network has been upfront about how it happened to be at Stone’s residence that morning — through some reportorial sleuthing. He cited a piece that was posted to CNN.com the day of the arrest.
Stone has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Thursday, Jackson expanded a gag order against Stone, prohibiting him from talking publicly about the case or Mueller’s investigation. Stone had posted, and then deleted, a photo of her on Instagram next to the symbol for a rifle crosshairs.