Source: DARREN SAMUELSOHN
Roger Stone remains free to talk about Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation, just not in and around the Washington, D.C., courthouse where the longtime Donald Trump associate is fighting the special counsel’s charges he lied to Congress and obstructed its Russia investigation.
That’s the end result from a four-page order issued Friday from a federal judge who had been considering a complete gag order on Stone in the wake of his full-on media blitz since his arrest last month in south Florida.
Instead, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that attorneys for Stone, Mueller and any witnesses in the case “must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”
As for Stone specifically, she said he could keep talking about the case except when entering or exiting the D.C. courthouse. But, she cautioned that his comments must not “pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case” and cannot be “intended to influence any juror, potential juror, judge, witness or court officer or interfere with the administration of justice.”
Jackson concluded her ruling with a warning that Stone should consider that any excessive public comments may come back to bite him.
“While it is not up to the court to advise the defendant as to whether a succession of public statements would be in his best interest at this time, it notes that one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself,” Jackson wrote.
Stone continues to face restrictions about contacting potential witnesses in his trial.
Jackson’s order in the Stone case doesn’t go as far as the one she issued in the fall of 2017 on Paul Manafort, his longtime business partner Rick Gates and their attorneys. There, she limited their commenting about the case just days after they were initially indicted in the Mueller probe.
For Stone, the prospect of a complete gag order was a daunting scenario for the longtime GOP campaign operative and frequent TV commentator who hosts his own daily webcast. He has been a ubiquitous media presence since his indictment last month, starting with a call to the conspiracy theory website InfoWars to give his first interview following the arrest.
Stone then did a press conference carried on live television from the Fort Lauderdale courthouse steps.
The media hits have only continued since then, including a series of interviews with the major television and cable networks, impromptu press conferences from his driveway, email missives seeking donations for his legal defense fund and dozens of social media posts critical of the case.
In an email to POLITICO, Stone welcomed the ruling.
“ I am pleased that the judge’s order leaves my First Amendment right to defend myself in public intact,” he said. “I will of course continue to be judicious about my comments regarding the case.”