White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded to the arrest of political adviser Roger Stone on Friday by noting the charges have nothing to do with President Donald Trump.
Stone served as a political adviser for the president back during the presidential election of 2016.
On Friday morning he was arrested on charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering as part of the special counsel’s ongoing probe into election interference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Sanders dismissed the indictments as having nothing to do with the president.
“My first reaction is really simple. This has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” Sanders said when asked by CNN host John Berman.
“This is something that has to do solely with that individual and not something that affects us here in this building.”
Berman then pushed her on the president’s having had a close business relationship with Stone.
Stone worked with the president before the election, including as a casino business lobbyist in Washington. He later jumped onto the campaign but officially left early in August 2015.
“Roger Stone is someone who has been a consultant for … dozens of Republican presidents, candidates and members of Congress, but conversations between those individuals have nothing to do with what these charges are about, and that’s about whether he made false statements. We’ll let the courts make that decision.”
Sanders pushed back on whether this type of legal standard would be applied to opponents of the president.
She accused those like former FBI Director James Comey and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of also making false statements to investigators. Clinton was facing a federal investigation during her campaign over her use of a private email server for diplomatic business.
“The question is if this is the standard, will it be applied to people like Hillary Clinton, James Comey? Will we see these same people who we know also made false statements? Will that same standard apply? That’s the question and we’ll have to see on that front.”
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) January 25, 2019
Berman then asked about whether the president or anyone else directed someone to contact Stone to get damaging information he might have.
He also asked Sanders about the other individuals associated with the president who are also in legal trouble now. Sanders maintained her stance that the charges have nothing to do with the president during a back-and-forth.
“Just because they had some association with the president at some point doesn’t mean things they did in their private lives and personal lives that may or may not have been wrong — that doesn’t have anything to do with the president. The question and big thing that [the] Mueller investigation was supposed to center on [was] whether or not the president colluded with Russia.”
Stone is accused in a 24-page indictment of working to obstruct the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference during the presidential election by making false statements to the committee, denying he had records sought by the committee, and persuading a witness to provide false testimony.
“Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country,” Trump tweeted out after the arrest. “NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?”
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been leading the special counsel investigation since it launched in May 2017. His team is looking into whether the president or his associates colluded with Russian interests to influence the presidential election of 2016.
The special counsel team has taken down a handful of other former associates of the president as well.
Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted by a grand jury on multiple charges. Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn became an early target over accusations he lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Michael Cohen, a former attorney for the president, drew the attention of the special counsel team on a few fronts. He allegedly helped to cover up extramarital affairs and conducted shady business deals on behalf of the president.
Cohen has worked with federal investigators and admitted to many of the allegations since turning himself in August 21.
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This piece has been updated.