The FBI has arrested Roger Stone, a confidant of Donald Trump, in a pre-dawn raid in a criminal case that revealed that senior members of the Trump campaign sought to benefit from the release of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.
The seven-count indictment against Stone, a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” with a long history with Mr Trump, is the first criminal case in months from special counsel Robert Mueller.
Stone appeared at court in shackles later in the morning and was released on a 250,000-dollar (£190,000) bond. He did not enter a plea.
The indictment provides the most detail to date about how Trump campaign associates in the summer of 2016 actively sought the disclosure of emails the US says were hacked by Russia, then provided to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
It alleges that unidentified senior Trump campaign officials contacted Stone to ask when stolen emails relating to Mrs Clinton might be disclosed.
The indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks or with the Russian officers Mr Mueller says hacked the emails. Instead it mirrors other Mueller cases in alleging cover-ups and deception, accusing Stone of lying to Congress about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing the probe into whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with the Kremlin to tip the election.
Some of those false statements were made to the House Intelligence Committee, prosecutors allege.
In referring to Trump campaign officials and their desire to leverage hacked emails, the criminal case brings Mr Mueller’s investigation into the president’s inner circle but it does not accuse the president of any wrongdoing or reveal whether he had advance knowledge of the WikiLeaks trove.
CNN aired video of the raid at Stone’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, showing FBI agents in body armour using large weapons and night-vision equipment, running up to the home and banging repeatedly on the door, shouting: “FBI! Open the door!”
Stone could then be seen in the doorway in his nightwear before he was led away.
Stone later said he would plead not guilty and claimed he is being “persecuted” because of his friendship with Mr Trump.
He spoke to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his InfoWars radio show after his arrest, but did not provide any details to support his accusation that he is being persecuted.
He said he is innocent and will “continue to fight … to clear my name against these politically motivated charges”.
Mr Trump called the investigation the “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country!”
It is not uncommon for the FBI to make early-morning arrests of targets under indictment, but it is the first time Mr Mueller has used that tactic. Stone had been predicting his indictment for some time.
Hours later, he appeared in court in a blue polo shirt and jeans. In releasing him on the bond, Judge Lurana Snow told Stone he could not travel outside of south Florida, Washington DC and New York City, and ordered him to avoid contact with witnesses.
Stone is the sixth Trump aide or adviser charged in Mr Mueller’s investigation and the 34th person overall.
The near two-year probe has exposed multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign and transition period and revealed efforts by several to conceal those communications.
The case comes weeks after the president’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was castigated by a judge in open court, and hours before Paul Manafort, his ex-campaign chairman, appeared in court on allegations that he lied to prosecutors.
Sarah Sanders, Mr Trump’s press secretary, said the charges brought against Stone “don’t have anything to do with the president”.
Mr Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said the indictment “does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else”.