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Federal judge bans Roger Stone from using social media

Washington — Roger Stone, the longtime GOP operative under federal indictment, has been barred from using social media after a federal judge found he had violated a gag order preventing him from publicly discussing the charges against him.

After a hearing in federal court in Washington on Tuesday, Judge Amy Jackson wrote in a court order that Stone cannot "post or communicate on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook in any way on any subject, including but not limited to forwarding, liking, re-posting, or re-tweeting anyone else's statements, articles, posts, or tweets."

In January, Stone was indicted on seven federal counts of making false statements and witness tampering for allegedly lying to congressional investigators about his supposed contacts with Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign. He was released on bond in February, with Jackson initially imposing a limited gag order preventing him from speaking about his case near the courthouse.

Just days later, Stone's Instagram account posted a photo of Jackson next to crosshairs, a move Stone attributed to someone who worked for him. On February 21, Jackson tightened the gag order, barring him from discussing anything about the case in public, with reporters and on social media.

Trump Russia Probe Stone
Roger Stone, accompanied by his wife, Nydia Stone, leaves federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Sait Serkan Gurbuz / AP

At Tuesday's hearing, prosecutors cited 11 Instagram posts and a text message to a reporter to argue Stone had violated the gag order. Stone has been banned from Twitter since 2017 but has maintained an active presence on Facebook and Instagram.

The posts at issue included several instances of Stone posting screenshots of articles or commentary on politicians. One post from March featured a picture of Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff imposed over a meter labeled "Bullschiff." The caption, which Jackson read aloud on Tuesday, read: "In 50 years in American politics I have never come across a shiftier and more duplicitous con man and charlatan than @repadamschiff. If it's Schiff Flush it! #maga."

Defense lawyers argued that Stone was only commenting on Schiff and not the case. Jackson reminded Stone's team that Schiff is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the same committee Stone allegedly lied to. 

Over the course of nearly an hour, Jackson asked Stone's lawyers about each post, asking them whether they violated her previous gag order. They argued they did not.

Jackson disagreed with Stone's team and issued a scathing indictment of their client's conduct, saying she was "wrestling with behavior that has more to do with middle school than the court of law." She said his lawyers' arguments ignored "the essence and exponential power of social media," adding they had to "twist the facts" to defend Stone's conduct.

"The goal has been to draw maximum attention to what you view as flaws in the investigation," the judge said to Stone. "What am I supposed to do with you?"

Clare Hymes contributed reporting.

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