President Donald Trump's confidant Roger Stone is telling congressional committees that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in order to not testify in response to requests for documents and testimony.
Stone's attorney Grant Smith rebuffed a request from the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee this week for documents and an interview connected to 2016 Russian election meddling. And Smith said he sent a similar letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee in September invoking the Fifth after the committee -- which is still conducting its investigation into Russian meddling -- requested documents and an interview.
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Smith sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California stating that Stone was declining Feinstein's requests, which she released over Twitter on Tuesday.
"Mr. Stone's invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen who denounces secrecy," the letter states.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is also investigating whether Stone was communicating with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks during the 2016 election either directly or through intermediaries. Mueller has spoken to a number of Stone's intermediaries, but he has still not reached out to Stone himself, Smith said.
Stone's letter was sent as Trump tweeted on Monday that Stone had "guts" for saying that he wouldn't testify against Trump in Mueller's investigation. But Trump has also been critical of those who invoke the Fifth. "The Mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" he said at a September 2016 rally.
"Mr. Stone was surprised by the President's Tweet yesterday," Smith told CNN. "This letter ... and the one sent in September to the Senate Intel Committee preceded the President's Tweet in support of Mr. Stone."
In his letter to Feinstein, Smith noted that Stone has already testified to the House Intelligence Committee.
"The requests, as previously stated to staff, are far too overbroad, far too overreaching, far too wide ranging both in their all-embracing list of persons to whom the request could relate with whom Mr. Stone has communicated over the past three years, and the 'documents concerning' imprecision of the requests," Smith wrote.
As ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein cannot compel testimony or document production. But the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoena power and has maintained its bipartisan investigation into Russian meddling.
Feinstein has nevertheless requested documents from numerous officials on the Trump campaign and connected to Trump. Feinstein sent her request to Stone in November 2017, which means he took more than a year before declining to participate.
Stone's letter could also be a signal to the House Intelligence Committee, where likely incoming chairman Adam Schiff of California has indicated he thinks Stone may have misled the committee in his testimony. Schiff will get subpoena power when he takes the gavel next year.
Smith disputed Schiff's assertions when asked about the letter to Feinstein.
"Rather than engage in hair splitting and frivolous arguments regarding semantics, Mr. Stone has challenged Congressman Schiff to provide any evidence he has that Mr. Stone had advance knowledge of the source or content of the WikiLeaks disclosures including any allegedly hacked or allegedly stolen emails ultimately published by Wikileaks," Smith said.