- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2019

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., said Friday she is weighing whether to slap a gag order on Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump who faces seven criminal charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson stopped short of silencing Mr. Stone, instead giving both parties until next week to address the issues in legal filings.

Also on Friday, the parties agreed to a tentative trial date of sometime in the fall — possibly October — citing the large amount of discovery evidence. Although Judge Jackson said she preferred having a trial in midsummer, a fall trial was “not unreasonable.”

Judge Jackson cautioned Mr. Stone that his recent media blitz could be detrimental to his upcoming criminal trial. She said the GOP operative is treating the proceedings “like a book tour.”

Any time Mr. Stone makes a media appearance, outlets must repeat the charges against him, potentially tainting the jury pool, she said.

“A criminal proceeding is not a public relations campaign,” Judge Jackson said. “It behooves the defendant to do the talking in the courtroom and not on the courthouse steps or on the talk shows.”

While most criminal defendants shun the spotlight, Mr. Stone has embraced it. Just hours after being arrested at his Florida home on Jan. 25, he appeared on Fox News and CNN. His whirlwind weekend ended with appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows.

On Thursday, Mr. Stone appeared in a video on the Daily Caller offering fashion tips for federal court arraignments.

Judge Jackson warned Mr. Stone that any statements made to the media could be used against him during the trial. But she also said that, if necessary, she would craft a narrow order limited to the case.

“Parties would be free to discuss foreign relations, immigration or Tom Brady,” she said.

Mr. Stone told The Washington Times on Thursday that he might fight the order if implemented.

“I would comply with any order of the court, but I can’t say that we wouldn’t appeal. …  I’ll adhere with any order of the court,” he said in an interview.

Last week, Mr. Stone pleaded not guilty to seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, charges lodged by Mr. Mueller’s team. Mr. Stone is accused of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Prosecutors say Mr. Stone told Trump campaign officials that he had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plan to release damaging emails about Mr. Trump’s political rival Hillary Clinton. Mr. Stone then lied to a congressional panel about attempts to learn more about WikiLeaks’ plans to release more emails.

Judge Jackson has imposed similar gag orders in other high-profile cases brought by Mr. Mueller, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former associate Rick Gates.

Since his arrest last week, Mr. Stone has been pleading his innocence in the media, insisting he will be vindicated. He told The Washington Times that the goal is to get his story out there, not litigate the case in the press.

“I also don’t want to try to litigate the entire case in public because it’s way too complicated. It’s not possible. It’s too complicated,” he said.

Mr. Stone denied that the media appearances were meant to indirectly appeal to the president for a pardon.

“It’s not the design [to appeal to the president through the media]. The design is to clear my name,” he said.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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