A federal judge has found a witness in contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury hearing evidence in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl Howell made the ruling Friday after a sealed hearing to discuss Andrew Miller's refusal to appear before the grand jury. Miller is a former aide to longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone.
After the hearing, Miller's lawyer, Paul Kamenar, said Miller was "held in contempt, which we asked him to be in order for us to appeal the judge's decision to the court of appeals."
Howell stayed her order while Miller's legal team appeals the judge's decision.
Miller had fought and lost a court battle earlier this month to quash a subpoena, after a judge issued a 93-page opinion saying Miller must testify before the grand jury.
Peter Flaherty, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit that is funding Miller's legal fight, said Miller had refused to appear before the grand jury in response to a subpoena. Miller is in Missouri, Flaherty said.
Earlier in the day, Kamenar and Flaherty were seen entering Howell's courtroom before she sealed it, and declined to comment on the proceeding. Kamenar spoke afterward, confirming that it was a hearing held after prosecutors filed a motion to find the witness in contempt.
When a subpoenaed witness refuses to testify before a grand jury, that person can be held in contempt. In some cases, such a contempt finding can lead to a witness being sent to jail until the person agrees to testify.
Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts.
Stone has been under scrutiny by Mueller in part because of a series of public statements and tweets he made during the 2016 campaign appearing to suggest he had advance knowledge of hacked Democratic emails released by the group WikiLeaks. The publication of the emails embarrassed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and helped disrupt the presidential race.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government was behind the hacking of the material from the Democratic Party and the personal email account of Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
A grand jury indicted 12 Russian military officers in July for orchestrating the hacks.
Miller worked for Stone during the 2016 presidential campaign, handling duties such as setting up media interviews. He is one of at least half a dozen of Stone's associates to be called to testify. Others include his driver, John Kakanis, and a social media consultant, Jason Sullivan. Another associate, Kristin Davis, who gained notoriety in the 2000s as the "Manhattan Madam" when she ran a high-end prostitution ring, is expected to testify Friday to the grand jury, media reports said.