WASHINGTON – The Justice Department is examining communications between right-wing extremists who raped the Capitol and Roger J. Stone Jr., a close associate of former President Donald J. Trump, to determine whether Mr. Stone played a role in the extremists’ plans to disrupt President Biden’s certification of electoral victory, a person familiar with the investigation said on Saturday.
If investigators found any messages showing that Mr. Stone was aware of or participated in these plans, they would likely have reason to open a full criminal investigation against him, according to the person, who spoke out under cover of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. While it’s far from certain, the person said, prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington will likely do so if they can establish probable cause.
Mr Stone, a self-proclaimed repairman for Mr Trump, escaped a 40-month jail sentence when the former president commuted his sentence in July and pardoned him in late December. Mr Stone had been convicted of seven counts, including obstructing a House investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, lying to the Congress and forgery of witnesses. But this pardon does not protect Mr. Stone from future lawsuits.
Justice Department officials debated for weeks whether to open a full investigation into Mr Stone, the person said. While Mr Stone spoke at an incendiary rally a day before the attack, while right-wing extremists were acting as his bodyguards and standing outside the Capitol, those actions in and of themselves would not are not crimes.
But the FBI also has a video and other information suggesting that in the days leading up to and including the day of the assault, Mr Stone teamed up with men who ultimately stormed the building. and is breaking the law, said the person close to the investigation. This gave investigators a window to examine the communications to see if Mr. Stone was aware of any plans to breach the complex.
The Washington Post earlier reported that the Justice Department was examining Mr. Stone’s possible links to right-wing extremists on Capitol Hill.
The New York Times has identified at least six members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist group founded by former members of the military and law enforcement, who were guarding Mr. Stone and were later seen in inside the Capitol after a pro-Trump mob took it up by force. Prosecutors charged two of the men with conspiracy to attack Congress.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment. Mr Stone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement posted online this month, Mr Stone denied any role in the “lawless attack” and said members of the Oath Keepers “should be prosecuted” if there was any evidence they had. is breaking the law. He added that he “saw no evidence of illegal activity on the part of the members” of the group.
A day after the attack on Capitol Hill, Michael Sherwin, the American lawyer in Washington, told reporters that he would not rule out pursuing charges against Mr. Trump or his associates for their possible role in inciting or encouragement from the crowd.
“We are looking at all the players, not just the people who entered the building,” said Mr. Sherwin. When asked if those targets would include Mr. Trump, who urged his supporters at a rally near the White House on January 6, telling them they could never “take back our country with weakness,” Mr. Sherwin maintained his statement. “We’re looking at all the players,” he says. “If the evidence matches the elements of a crime, they will be charged.”
Another member of Mr Sherwin’s office appeared to revisit those remarks shortly after, suggesting that those in Mr Trump’s orbit were unlikely to be investigated. But Mr Sherwin later said he stood by his original statement.