‘Prepare to die’: Ominous message

It has been a dramatic day in the United States.

The news has been dominated by Donald Trump's abrupt announcement of a deal with Democrats to end the government shutdown. He has been accused of caving to their demands, but the deal does ensure 800,000 government workers will finally get paid.

Meanwhile, in the early hours of the morning, the FBI arrested Mr Trump's longtime associate and political adviser Roger Stone.

Mr Stone is the sixth person connected to the President to be indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation - the others being Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and Mr Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Mr Stone is facing seven charges, which include obstruction of official proceedings, witness tampering and making false statements.

Most of them centre around Mr Stone's testimony to Congress about his attempts to communicate with Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr Mueller alleges Mr Stone repeatedly lied.

After a brief court appearance today, Mr Stone echoed a famous image of former president Richard Nixon by raising his arms above his head and making the V-for-victory sign with his hands.

"I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court," he told reporters from the courthouse steps.

"There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the President, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself. I look forward to being fully and completely vindicated."

Others aren't so confident about his chances. Former US attorney Preet Bharara suggested at least some of the charges were a "slam dunk".

Here are the most important points from the 24-page indictment, which covers Mr Stone's attempts to communicate with Wikileaks, and then his alleged efforts to intimidate a witness, in detail.

1. MAKING CONTACT WITH WIKILEAKS

According to US intelligence services, this is what happened during the 2016 presidential campaign: Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and the personal email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, then gave tens of thousands of documents to Wikileaks, which released them bit by bit to damage Ms Clinton.

The indictment lays out Mr Stone's attempts to get in touch with Wikileaks and determine what it had on Ms Clinton.

He allegedly used two intermediaries to make contact with the organisation. These people are referred to only as Person 1 and Person 2 in the indictment, but US media has identified them as conservative political commentator Jerome Corsi and New York radio host Randy Credico.

The indictment describes emails exchanged between Mr Stone and Mr Corsi. In one, for example, Mr Stone tells Mr Corsi to "get to" Julian Assange and "get the pending emails", which he believes deal with the Clinton Foundation.

There are also multiple messages to Mr Credico, in which Mr Stone implores him to "pass my message" on to Mr Assange.

When he testified before Congress, Mr Stone denied having any texts, emails or documents from his discussions about Wikileaks.

2. THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN'S INVOLVEMENT

Mueller alleges that in mid-2016, Mr Stone spoke to "senior Trump campaign officials" about Wikileaks, saying it had information that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Senior campaign officials then contacted Mr Stone to inquire about future releases by Wikileaks.

In other words, people inside the campaign wanted to know what Wikileaks was planning.

The indictment includes this striking paragraph:

"After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organisation 1 (Wikileaks), a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organisation 1 had regarding the Clinton campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organisation 1."

Mr Mueller does not reveal the identity of the senior official in question - nor, importantly, does he say who directed them to reach out to Mr Stone.

"The question isn't which senior Trump official contacted Stone, but who directed this person to do so. The only logical possibilities could fit in a phone booth," CNN political analyst John Avlon said.

He speculated the mysterious figure in question could be then-campaign manager Paul Manafort - or even Donald Trump himself.

3. STONE'S ALLEGED WITNESS TAMPERING

Mr Stone told Congress that Mr Credico was his only intermediary with Mr Assange - a statement that obviously ignores Mr Corsi.

The indictment claims Mr Credico asked Mr Stone to correct that error. Instead of complying, he allegedly pushed Mr Credico to repeat the same lie in his own testimony.

"On multiple occasions, including on or about December 1, 2017, Stone told (Credico) that (Credico) should do a 'Frank Pentangeli' in order to avoid contradicting Stone's testimony," it reads.

"Frank Pentangeli is a character in the film The Godfather: Part II, which both Stone and (Credico) had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims not to know critical information that he does in fact know."

Over the ensuing months, Mr Stone pressured Mr Credico more aggressively. The indictment includes one particularly threatening email.

"You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds," Mr Stone said.

He also threatened to "take that dog away from you", referring to Mr Credico's therapy dog.

"I am so ready. Let's get it on. Prepare to die," he said.

 

Roger Stone's threatening message, as described by the indictment.
Roger Stone's threatening message, as described by the indictment.

4. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Other targets of the Mueller investigation have been conspicuously quiet since they were ensnared. Some, like Michael Flynn, are now co-operating with the investigation in return for lighter sentences.

Roger Stone is unlikely to follow that path. He has already given two major TV interviews since his arrest, speaking out against the indictment.

"What is this about? It's about silencing me," he told Fox News' Tucker Carlson.

"There's a war on alternative media. There is a war where they're trying to criminalise political expression. There's a war where they are trying to criminalise free speech."

Mr Stone reiterated his assertion that he would be "vindicated" in court.

Shortly afterwards, he spoke to CNN host Chris Cuomo, who wondered why his lawyers were letting him on TV.

"It makes me think you must believe there's a light at the end of the tunnel. You believe that light is not the train but that it is the President, and he will pardon you for keeping your mouth shut," Cuomo said.

"I have no idea what he might do," Mr Stone replied.

"Would you accept one?" Cuomo asked.

Mr Stone said he did not expect to be convicted.

"So I'm not going to address it. I don't address hypothetical questions."