When Roger Stone was arrested by the FBI in a pre-dawn raid to serve an indictment issued by special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN happened to have a camera crew on location at just the right moment.
Stone’s lawyers are now accusing the Mueller team of “leaking” the indictment to CNN before it was unsealed. They filed a court motion Wednesday requesting the judge to make the Mueller team explain why it should not be held in contempt for the alleged leak, Politico reported.
Stone accuses Mueller of violating seal
During a press conference in Boca Raton on Wednesday, Stone told reporters, “My lawyers filed a motion to show cause because we now know that the special council’s office released my indictment two and a half hours before it was unsealed by a federal magistrate.”
Stone also disputes CNN’s explanation for their perfectly-timed presence. “CNN also says they have been staking out my house every Friday for months. The security cameras show no such thing and, in fact, the CNN reporter called me the day before and asked me for my home address,” he said.
“I think it’s abundantly clear from the video camera, which I sent to the Senate and House Judiciary Committee, that CNN showed up 15 minutes before the FBI, that they set up their camera 10 minutes before the FBI arrived,” Stone said. “That would have to be the shortest stakeout in American history.”
Did Mueller tip off CNN?
Stone’s legal team says that moments after the raid, a CNN reporter forwarded a draft copy of the indictment to Stone’s attorney. The document lacked the typical time stamps and other official markings of an official indictment filed in the PACER court records database.
The lack of PACER stampings on CNN’s copy of the indictment suggests that it was a “draft” copy, given to them prior to the actual unsealing of the indictment and entry into the public system, which would explain how the CNN crew knew to camp outside Stone’s home about an hour before the raid commenced.
“A person with privileged access to a ‘draft’ of Roger Stone’s Indictment, identical to that which had been filed under seal … had — in violation of the Court’s Order — publicly distributed the Indictment prior to its release from the sealing ordered by the Court,” said Stone’s attorneys in the filing.
Politico reported that Mueller’s team claims that a public notice was sent out just prior to the arrest which included a link to the draft copy, and officially filed the indictment in the PACER system and updated the link later in the day. However, that doesn’t explain why only CNN got a copy of the unmarked draft of the indictment.
CNN claims guesswork and intuition
CNN argues that they weren’t tipped off and relied on journalistic intuition. To support that argument, the network noted that Mueller’s team had largely blocked off the day of the arrest, Jan. 25, on schedules, and that Stone’s eventual indictment had been widely viewed as an impending inevitability.
Of course, questions remain, and Republican Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham has requested a briefing with FBI Director Christopher Wray about the details and force used in the Stone arrest, while acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said, “It was deeply concerning to me as to how CNN found out about that.”
Meanwhile, Judge Amy Berman Jackson is considering imposing a gag order on all parties involved in the case, a move that many view as an attempt to silence Stone and prevent him from publicly mounting a defense.