Roger Stone, the longtime associate and informal adviser to President Donald Trump who faces federal charges of obstruction, witness-tampering and false statements, roused controversy Sunday when he shared a photograph on his Instagram account, which appeared to state former CIA director John Brennan should be hanged for alleged treason.
"This psycho must be charged, tried, and convicted and hung for treason," Stone reportedly wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post, which also featured a picture of Brennan. The Brennan Instagram story was first reported on Twitter by CNN's Brian Stelter.
Stone posted a similar message to his Instagram account @rogerstonejr last week, but he did not say Brennan should be hanged. The earlier post, shown below, states: "Wanted for TREASON: CIA Director John Brennan." The post remained up on Instagram as of Monday morning.
Stone is under a gag order as he awaits a federal trial on charges related to witness tampering and his attempts to learn about releases of a trove of damaging emails stolen from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign. He previously posted a picture to his Instagram account, which appeared to show U.S. District Judge Amy Berman's face near the crosshairs of a gun — a move that resulted in the judge threatening to jail him if he violated the gag order against him.
Stone was charged by the Justice Department in late January for lying to congressional investigators about his alleged attempts to find out when potentially damaging emails stolen from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign would be published by Julian Assange, the publisher of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks whom Stone previously called "my hero." Russian intelligence agents hacked Democrats and their email accounts and then shared the documents with WikiLeaks, which published them during the final months of the 2016 election, according to prosecutors. He also faces charges of obstruction of an official proceeding and witness tampering. Stone has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
After Stone was indicted, Trump came to his defense by asking why Brennan was not also charged for allegedly lying to Congress. Brennan served under Obama until January 2017. Trump revoked his security clearance last August after the White House alleged he had lied to lawmakers.
Stone has repeatedly denied any contact with Russia or WikiLeaks. He has claimed that he had no prior knowledge that WikiLeaks had hacked Democrats' emails and would release them ahead of the election, saying the predictions he made about the group's plans were based on Assange's public remarks and tips from associates with inside knowledge. In sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last year, Stone said he did not intend to suggest he had communicated directly with Assange. WikiLeaks and Assange have also said they never communicated with Stone.
WikiLeaks made two separate email dumps during the heated 2016 race that altered the trajectory of the presidential election. In July, former special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in a sustained effort to hack the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the weeks ahead of the 2016 election. The damaging emails were released by WikiLeaks. At the time, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claimed the hackers created false online personas, DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, in an attempt to disguise the Russian origins of their work. After the election, Stone admitted exchanging direct but benign messages with Guccifer 2.0 over Twitter.
Stone was the 34th person charged by Mueller in his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow and whether the president obstructed justice. Of those people, Mueller had secured guilty pleas from six Trump associates or advisers, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign aide George Papadopoulos.