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After a publicity-filled weekend, Stone to appear before federal judge


After a publicity-filled weekend, Stone to appear before federal judge

After a publicity-filled weekend spent asserting his innocence and slamming investigators, Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone will appear before a federal judge who may look to muzzle him as the case moves forward. Stone faces a Tuesday morning arraignment in Washington and is expected to plead not guilty to charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Though most defendants facing charges tend to stay quiet for fear of inflaming prosecutors or a judge, Stone has opted for a different tack since his pre-dawn arrest Friday in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Stone staged an impromptu news conference outside a Florida courthouse, made the rounds on weekend television and repeatedly mocked the probe on an Instagram account, including with a cartoonish-image of Mueller as a bowtie-wearing butler holding a tray with a hamburger roll — but no meat in between.

A self-described dirty trickster and longtime confidant of the president, Stone is the sixth Trump aide charged in Mueller's investigation. The indictment does not accuse Stone of coordinating with Russia or with WikiLeaks on the release of hacked Democratic emails. But it does allege that he misled lawmakers about his pursuit of those communications and interest in them. The anti-secrecy website published emails in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election that the US says were stolen from Democrats by Russian operatives.

Stone, who has alleged without evidence that the FBI used "Gestapo tactics" in arresting him, said he did nothing more than exercise his First Amendment rights to drum up interest with voters about the WikiLeaks disclosures. He said he never discussed the issue with Trump. "That's what I engaged in. It's called politics and they haven't criminalised it, at least not yet," Stone said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "All I did was take publicly available information and try to hype it to get it as much attention as possible, because I had a tip, the information was politically significant and that it would come in October," he added.

Tuesday's arraignment could inspire the same circus-like atmosphere that surrounded his Friday court appearance in Florida, where Stone emerged from the building in a blue polo shirt, flashed a Richard Nixon victory sign, predicted his vindication and vowed that he would not "bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself." All the while, jeering spectators shouted "Lock Him Up!" while others in the crowd cheered him on.

It's unclear whether Mueller's prosecutors will look to have Stone locked up pending trial or whether they will simply recommend conditions that would allow him to remain free on bond. It's also possible that US Magistrate Deborah Robinson might impose a gag order to prevent Stone from discussing the case.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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