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Roger Stone appears before Jan. 6 panel and pleads the Fifth

Roger Stone, center, departs federal court in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. President Donald Trump loyalist and ally, Roger Stone was sentenced to over three years in federal prison, following an extraordinary move by Attorney General William Barr to back off his Justice Department's original sentencing recommendation. The sentence came amid President Donald Trump's unrelenting defense of his longtime confidant that led to a mini-revolt inside the Justice Department and allegations the president interfered in the case. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Roger Stone, seen here departing federal court in Washington, D.C., in 2020, appeared Friday before the panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.

Controversial political operative Roger Stone appeared Friday before the Democrat-led House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights in response to questioning from the panel. "I don't like to see the criminalization of constitutionally protected political activity," Stone said as he left the U.S. Capitol after pleading the Fifth. "I think it's a slippery slope."He made no remarks earlier as he headed into the O'Neill House Office Building near the Capitol complex several minutes before his deposition, which was set for 10 a.m. Members of Stone's entourage awaited him in the lobby after he entered the building's secured entrance. Soon after, he issued a statement through his legal defense saying it would be a costly trip. He attacked Democrats for what he said was an attempt to "frame" him. He said that is why he is asserting the Fifth."I will invoke my 5th Amendment right not to answer their loaded questions — not because I have done anything wrong — but because I recognize the whole thing as an elaborate trap," Stone said in the statement. Stone, through his attorney, had already said he would comply with the subpoena but respond to each question from the committee by asserting the Fifth Amendment. Stone is one of more than 50 witnesses subpoenaed by the panel so far. Overall, the committee has interviewed more than 300 witnesses largely on a voluntary basis. He is also not the first witness to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights: Attorney John Eastman appeared before the committee earlier this month and said he would also assert those rights. Former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark also said he expects to invoke the Fifth when he appears before the committee at a later date. Stone, who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump for several crimes tied to a congressional inquiry into the Trump 2016 campaign, participated in "Stop the Steal" efforts, the Jan. 6 committee has said. Stone was subpoenaed last month along with another controversial figure, InfoWars founder Alex Jones, and others. Soon after, he made remarks that he planned to decline the answer the panel's questions directly. Soon after his subpoena was announced, Stone said through his attorney that he did not have any details regarding the Jan. 6 attack. "I have said time and time again that I had no advance knowledge of the events that took place at the Capitol on that day," Stone said.In his statement, he added that he "was not present on the Ellipse, did not march to the Capitol and was not at the Capitol and know nothing whatsoever about the illegal events that day." NPR's Ryan Lucas and Carrie Johnson contributed to this report. Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.