Mueller Report Redactions on Roger Stone Are Revealed

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department released information on Friday about President Trump’s friend and former campaign adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. that it had previously redacted from the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The newly disclosed material dealt largely with efforts by the Trump campaign to discover what material WikiLeaks had obtained that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Stone was at the forefront of the campaign’s effort to contact WikiLeaks, the chosen repository of Russian government for a trove of Clinton campaign emails and other documents that its operatives stole in an attempt to boost Mr. Trump’s election chances.

When the Mueller report was released last year, the Justice Department withheld information about Mr. Stone’s efforts to serve as an intermediary with WikiLeaks, in order, it said, to protect a continuing criminal case against him on charges of lying to investigators and witness tampering. But a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a watchdog group, and the BuzzFeed News journalist Jason Leopold challenged those and other redactions as violations of the Freedom of Information Act.

The department’s decision to release more of the text of the report came after the federal judge overseeing that case, Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District of Columbia, expressed suspicion about whether the redactions were justified and ordered government lawyers to provide him with the full report so he could review the redactions himself.

House Democrats have been separately seeking to review grand jury materials cited in the report. The Supreme Court in May blocked the release of that material while it considers whether to hear arguments in that case.

The plaintiffs in the FOIA lawsuit argued that there was no reason to withhold information about Mr. Stone, especially after he was convicted of all counts in November and sentenced to 40 months in prison in February.

An appointee of President George W. Bush, Judge Walton has sympathized to some degree with the plaintiffs. He wrote in his March opinion that Attorney General William P. Barr’s overall handling of the Mueller report made him question the department’s motivations for redactions.

Mr. Barr had put forward a “distorted” and “misleading” account of the Mueller report findings in a fashion that downplayed the special counsel’s more damaging findings and shaped the public narrative in the president’s favor, Judge Walton wrote.

“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility,” he wrote — and in turn, cast doubt on the department’s statements to him that the redactions were lawful.

He said he would privately review the full text because “adherence to the FOIA’s objective of keeping the American public informed of what its government is up to demands nothing less.”

During Mr. Stone’s trial, prosecutors said that he obstructed a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election in order to protect the president. “He knew that if the truth came out about what he was doing in 2016, it would look terrible,” one prosecutor said of Mr. Stone.

The evidence showed he lied under oath, withheld reams of documents and threatened an associate with harm if he cooperated with congressional investigators. A jury convicted Mr. Stone on all counts, and prosecutors recommended that he be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison.

The defense team argued that the entire premise of the prosecution’s case was false because Mr. Stone never had any evidence that would have hurt Mr. Trump. He merely tried to discover what information WikiLeaks had obtained that Mr. Trump could use against Hillary Clinton before the election, they argued, and neither he nor anyone else tied to the campaign ever conspired with the Russians who had funneled that information to WikiLeaks.

After Mr. Trump attacked the prosecutors’ recommendation for a stiff prison term on Twitter, Mr. Barr intervened and the department asked for a more lenient sentence — an extraordinary reversal that stunned legal experts and department veterans. Four career prosecutors withdrew from the case in protest, and one quit the department entirely.

Mr. Stone, who is scheduled to report to the Bureau of Prisons by the end of June to start serving his sentence, has expressed hopes that the president will pardon him.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.