Roger Stone meets with Congress Russia investigators

 In U.S.

Stone, a one-time adviser to Trump, issued a combative opening statement Monday evening ahead of his highly anticipated appearance before the House intelligence committee Tuesday morning in a closed session.

Following his meeting, Stone said he had a “frank exchange” and described the preceding as “an entirely political exercise.”

Stone said he denied any Russian collusion or knowledge of the hacking of John Podesta’s email during the roughly three-hour closed-door session.

In his testimony, Stone attacked the very lawmakers questioning him, calling out the statements of three Democrats on the panel, including ranking member Adam Schiff of California.

“Multiple members of this committee have made false allegations against me in public session in order to ensure that these bogus charges received maximum media coverage,” Stone said in his statement. “Now, however, you deny me the opportunity to respond to these charges in the same open forum. This is cowardice.”

Stone said there were “partisan clashes” during the session — and he wasn’t holding his breath for apologies he sought from the panel’s Democrats — but he said that members were professional and courteous and he was prepared for all the questions asked.

Stone said he did not answer one question that was asked about his “intermediary” to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone said that it was an off-the-record conversation with a journalist, though he added he would ask the journalist to release him from the off-the-record agreement.

Schiff said after the hearing there was one area of Stone’s testimony where Stone would not answer questions, and that if Stone did not cooperate the committee would need to subpoena him. Schiff wouldn’t say what the area was, though it had to do with Stone’s description of his intermediary.

Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, the Republican leading the panel’s Russian investigation, said he agreed with Schiff that the committee needed to get the information about the intermediary from Stone.

He also told reporters that Stone’s comments to the media describing the hearing were “accurate.”

Stone’s meeting comes after he battled with the committee when he demanded a public hearing, which lawmakers rejected, and as the members demanded he produce public records about his contacts with Russians, which sources said he did not do.

Multiple sources told CNN that Stone did not provide the committee with records about his alleged contacts with Russians, despite the panel’s request. But one source familiar with the matter said that the committee asked for all public records — and all of Stone’s contacts with Russians have been released on Twitter and elsewhere. Stone had no private communications with Russians, the source said.

“We fully complied with the document request from the House on a timely basis,” said Stone’s attorney, Grant Smith.

In his 47-page opening statement, which includes exhibits, Stone denied he had any collusion with the Russian state, and also says that allegations Russia was responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee were unproven.

“I understand the committee’s interest in me, I use all clauses of the 1st Amendment to achieve my goals, I am out there, I am provocative and partisan, but let’s be clear: I have no involvement in the alleged activities that are within the publicly stated scope of this committee’s investigation — collusion with the Russian state to affect the outcome of the 2016 election,” Stone says.

Stone’s testimony Tuesday is his first before the congressional panels investigating Russian election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump team.

Stone’s own words have turned him into a lightning rod when it comes to the Russia investigation.

He admits exchanging private messages last summer with the Twitter handle belonging to Guccifer 2.0, who had already leaked stolen documents from the Democratic National Committee. At one point, Guccifer 2.0 told Stone, “tell me if I can help u anyhow,” though Stone didn’t appear to accept the offer.

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