By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone faced an uphill battle in court on Thursday, as a federal judge poked holes in nearly every argument his lawyers made for why she should dismiss an indictment stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson repeatedly expressed scepticism about everything from claims the case violates the U.S. constitution to allegations the indictment is defective because Congress never formally asked the Justice Department to investigate Stone for perjury or obstruction.
In one striking exchange, Stone’s attorney Bruce Rogow pointed to a dissenting opinion by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to support his claim that the Constitution prohibits the executive branch’s Justice Department from investigating Trump or members of his campaign under its Vesting Clause.
“Is there any reason why, as a district court judge, I am supposed to apply the law of a dissent, no matter how well written or thoughtful one might consider it to be, when there is authority otherwise?” she asked.
“The Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon specifically said that the executive branch can investigate the executive branch. Um, I’m not bound by that?” she asked, referring to the landmark unanimous case ordering President Richard Nixon to turn over tapes and other subpoenaed materials.
“You are,” Rogow then conceded.
Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering as part of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
He is accused of lying to investigators for the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee who were looking into allegations that Russia hacked the emails of senior Democrats.
The indictment against Stone also says he told members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign that he had advance knowledge of plans by the WikiLeaks website to release damaging emails about Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Mueller completed his investigation on March 22, after about two years. While his probe uncovered multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, it did not establish a criminal conspiracy.
Mueller also did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.
On Wednesday, Mueller made his first public statement on his investigation since it started two years ago.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)