Long-time Donald Trump associate Roger Stone has invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to a request for documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Ranking Minority Member, Dianne Feinstein. He has also refused to testify in front of the committee in private. The senator revealed the letter from Stone’s attorney via a Twitter post on Dec. 4.
The letter stated the requests were “far too overbroad, far too overreaching, far too wide ranging.” Stone’s attorney argued that responding to the request to produce documents would constitute the Senate compelling Stone to testify against himself.
Also in the letter, Stone said he wouldn’t testify in front of the committee, because the hearings would be held in private. While Stone previously said he would testify in a public hearing, this letter refers to such an offer in the past tense. Stone previously testified to the House behind closed doors, which will make public transcripts available later this month.
Stone’s refusals could lead to a charge of contempt of Congress, which can result in a fine up to $100,000 and up to a year in federal prison. A judge might find a Fifth Amendment justification plausible for Stone withholding documents, but his refusal to not appear in front of Congress at all is likely not defensible as he could appear and invoke his right in response to every question, as some people have done in the past.
The investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly focused on Stone’s alleged contacts with Wikileaks, the organization run by Julian Assange that dumped hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee during a critical juncture in the 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller’s team is looking into potential Russian influence in the election, and Wikileaks may have obtained the email dump from hackers working for the Russian government.
Stone’s rejection of Feinstein’s request comes a day after a tweet by President Trump that some have likened to an implication that Trump would pardon Stone if he stood by his repeatedly stated intention to not testify against the president. Stone told ABC News on Dec. 2, “There’s no circumstance under which I would testify against the president because I’d have to bear false witness against him.”
Some legal experts stated that the tweet constituted obstruction of justice. Stone said on Dec. 2 that he hadn’t spoken to the president about a pardon.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner said on Twitter, “The President of the United States should not be using his platform to influence potential witnesses in a federal investigation involving his campaign.”