Roger Stone will go on trial starting Nov. 5 in Washington, the federal judge presiding over the high-profile case said Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson set out a calendar for a two-week trial that will pit the longtime Trump associate against special counsel Robert Mueller on charges Stone lied to Congress and obstructed lawmakers’ Russia investigations.
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Stone entered the D.C. courthouse for Thursday’s status hearing uncertain whether he’d face any penalties — including jail — for violating the terms of a gag order restricting his ability to talk about any aspect of the case.
But Stone was spared any punishment after Jackson opened the proceedings saying she didn’t “intend to dwell” on the dispute, which centers on discrepancies over whether Stone mislead the court about plans to rerelease a recent book with a new introduction bashing Mueller’s investigation.
Jackson last week reprimanded Stone over the book flap and accused him of using court filings to promote its sales. The judge, an Obama appointee, also raised questions over whether Stone and his lawyers knew about the book issue but didn’t raise it during a Feb. 21 hearing in which Jackson imposed a more sweeping gag order.
On Monday, Stone’s lawyers gave Jackson a batch of emails detailing the back and forth between Stone, his attorneys and his publisher over the updated book, now titled: “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Donald Trump REALLY Won.”
The emails show Stone lawyer Bruce Rogow became concerned about the book as he read the introduction on his way back to Florida from the February hearing. However, the messages also show that six days earlier, Stone himself warned the publisher that a gag order from Jackson might interfere with his ability to promote the book.
Addressing the issue Thursday in court, Mueller prosecutor Jeannie Rhee told Jackson that there were contradictions between the claims made by Stone’s attorneys and the email exchanges they’d released involving the publisher.
Jackson responded that she hadn’t had time to study all the filings tied to the gag order flap but would take prosecutors’ arguments “under advisement.”
The judge scoffed at some of the defense’s explanations for not alerting her to the book issue sooner, especially a claim that it would have been “awkward” to raise the issue during the Feb. 21 hearing.
“I’m not sure that’s a very strong response from an experienced litigator and officer of the court,” Jackson said, reminding the attorneys that they have a duty of candor to the court. “There’s no exception for ‘awkward.’”.
Stone had been a ubiquitous media presence before and in the weeks after his indictment, taking to the airwaves to savage the underlying Russia investigation. The voluble self-promoter also launched a fiery social media campaign disparaging the FBI task force that arrested him and Mueller.
Jackson had given Stone leeway to continue commenting about his case so long as he wasn’t just outside the Washington courthouse where he’ll stand trial but later clamped down on the defendant after he posted on Instagram a picture of her with what could be interpreted as a gun crosshairs above her head.
“Today, I gave you a second chance,” Jackson told Stone in February when she placed the more restrictive limits on his speech. “This is not baseball; you don’t get a third chance.”
Deputy special counsel Andrew Weissmann — who will soon depart Mueller’s staff — was on hand for Stone’s hearing, but sat in one of the seats for support staff just inside the courtroom bar. The prosecution table included lawyers from both Mueller’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, which have joint responsibility for Stone’s case.
Turning to other matters tied to the Stone trial, Jackson set a series of key dates, including a schedule for Stone’s lawyers to file motions to dismiss the case outright. The first round of briefs from the defense is due April 12. Other notable events include another status hearing on April 30 and a pretrial conference on Sept. 17.
As they prepare for trial, Stone’s lawyers are reviewing some 9 terabytes of data that the government produced for discovery. “We can pile it as high as the Washington Monument twice,” Robert Buschel, an attorney for the defendant, said in court.
Jackson has had a busy workload. On Wednesday, she upped Paul Manafort’s prison sentence to 7½ years — with credit for the nine months he’s already served — stemming from his guilty plea on a pair of conspiracy charges. A jury in Virginia also convicted Manafort last summer on a series of financial fraud charges, for which he was sentenced to nearly four years.
Stone, who’s known for his provocative public statements, kept relatively mum as he left the courthouse Thursday.
He said nothing about the proceeding, but did respond to a question about his feelings.
“I’m doing all right,” Stone said.
When a journalist observed that the session produced little of Stone’s trademark drama, he seemed to agree and sounded a bit apologetic.
“No fireworks,” he said.