White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Friday that the indictment of Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longtime adviser, had “nothing to do” with the president. But when pressed by CNN’s John Berman, Sanders refused to say whether Trump directed a senior campaign official to contact Stone about WikiLeaks’ plans to release potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
According to the indictment, which was unsealed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office following Stone’s early morning arrest, a “senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone” after the July 22, 2016, release of stolen Democratic National Committee emails by WikiLeaks to find out about “any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton campaign.”
The “senior official” is believed to be Steve Bannon.
Berman asked Sanders if the president directed someone to contact Stone.
“Look, John, I’m not an attorney,” Sanders said. “I’m not going to be able to provide you some type of insider legal analysis. What I can tell you is that the specific charges that have been brought against Mr. Stone don’t have anything to do with the president.”
Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering. He is now the sixth individual with ties to Trump to be charged in Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the campaign’s contacts with Russia.
Trump responded to Stone’s arrest — which was captured by a CNN camera crew — in a tweet late Friday morning.
Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2019
Berman pressed Sanders about whether it was Trump who directed the “senior Trump campaign official” to contact Stone.
“Look, I know the charges are about whether or not [Stone] gave false statements, and that’s on that individual,” Sanders replied. “That has nothing to do with the president.”
Sanders noted that media outlets, including CNN, reported the information revealed in WikiLeaks’ publication of the DNC emails. “Does that mean CNN is guilty of collusion?” Sanders said, adding: “The charges brought against Mr. Stone have nothing to do with the president. That’s what I’m clear on.”
“You keep telling me you’re clear on that, but then you will not answer whether it was the president who directed a senior Trump campaign official to contact Roger Stone,” Berman said.
Sanders snapped back: “I have actually answered the question several times, you just don’t like my answer.”
“Was it the president who made that direction or not?” Berman said.
“Once again, I haven’t read this document. I’m not an attorney,” Sanders replied.
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