U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone denied all charges against him Friday on the steps of a courthouse in Florida, while nearby protesters drowned out his words with chants of “Lock him up!”
Stone has been charged with witness tampering, obstruction and lying to Congress in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
He mimicked his former boss, Richard Nixon, with a double two-finger salute as he descended the steps of the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday, amid loud boos from gathered protesters. He was released on a US$250,000 bond and told not travel anywhere except to New York City, South Florida and Washington, D.C.
“I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court,” Stone told reporters outside the courthouse, six hours after the FBI arrested him in a pre-dawn raid at his home.
“There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president,” he said.
WATCH BELOW: Roger Stone speaks after facing charges in Florida
Stone is the sixth prominent Trump associate to face charges in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign.
Thirty-five people have pleaded guilty, been indicted or otherwise swept up in the Russia inquiry, which has clouded Trump’s two-year-old presidency.
Trump praised Stone on Twitter last month, after Stone said he wouldn’t testify against the president.
“Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!'” Trump tweeted.
The president again labelled the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” on Friday after Stone’s arrest.
“NO COLLUSION!” he tweeted. “Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better.”
He also complained about CNN’s footage of armed FBI agents arresting Stone at his home.
“Who alerted CNN to be there?” Trump tweeted.
CNN aired video of the raid at Stone’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home, showing agents in body armour using large weapons and night-vision equipment, running up to the home and banging on the door.
“FBI open the door!” one shouts. “FBI, warrant!” Stone could then be seen in the doorway in his sleepwear before he was led away.
Though not uncommon for the FBI to make early-morning arrests of targets under indictment, it’s the first time Mueller has used that tactic. Stone had been predicting his indictment for some time.
WATCH BELOW: Protesters chant ‘lock him up’ as Michael Flynn leaves court
Stone was an early Trump backer whose reputation as an aggressive political operative and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” dates back to the Watergate scandal of the 1970s when he was working for Richard Nixon. He even has a tattoo of Nixon’s face on his back.
Stone briefly served on Trump’s campaign, but was pushed out amid infighting with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Stone continued communicating with Trump on occasion and stayed plugged into the circle of advisers — both formal and informal — who worked with and around Trump.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Stone indictment was unrelated to the president.
“The charges brought against Mr. Stone have nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the White House,” she told CNN. “The president did nothing wrong.”
— With files from The Associated Press and Reuters