WASHINGTON - Political strategist Roger Stone, a long-time ally of President Trump, has been arrested in Florida, charged with seven counts in the Mueller probe. Mr Stone will appear in court later in the city of Fort Lauderdale, reported BBC on Friday.

The indictment includes one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness-tampering. The charges are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials.

The information contained in the emails was released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 US election campaign. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, who was targeted in the hack, accused self-described “dirty trickster” Mr Stone of knowing about it beforehand.

According to investigators, Mr Stone said he had “communicated” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before the emails’ release and had described the contact as “perfectly legal”.

Mr Stone’s campaign activities have long been under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

In 2016, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had tried to turn the election in Mr Trump’s favour through a state-authorised relay of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

Mr Trump has branded the Mueller inquiry a political “witch-hunt”. The Kremlin has always denied meddling in the US election.

So far Mr Mueller’s investigation has led to charges against more than two dozen Russians, as well as several people connected to Mr Trump himself, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort, the former chairman of his election campaign, who is in jail.

Mr Stone was detained in a pre-dawn arrest. A long-time friend of Donald Trump, Roger Stone has worked on Republican political campaigns since the 1970s.

The 64-year-old favours three-piece suits and reportedly refuses to wear socks. He began his career working on Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election bid, and has a tattoo of the 37th president across his shoulder blades. Mr Stone published a book, The Making of the President 2016, after helping Mr Trump to power.

ROSS UNDER FIRE OVER SHUTDOWN

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has attracted scorn for suggesting workers affected by the ongoing government shutdown should take out bank loans. “True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest,” he told broadcaster CNBC. “But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.”

Critics derided the multimillionaire for being out of touch. About 800,000 federal workers will miss another payday on Friday.

The US government shutdown is now the longest in history and there is no clear end in sight after the Senate rejected two bills aimed at ending the impasse.  President Donald Trump is demanding $5.7bn (£4.4bn) for a proposed southern border wall which the Democratic Party refuse to fund, saying it would be ineffective and immoral.

In the interview, Mr Ross seemed puzzled that federal workers who have been without pay since 18 December would go to food banks.

Borrowing from a bank is “in effect federally guaranteed”, he said. There are some “very, very low interest rate loans” on offer, he added.

Mr Ross also downplayed the number of people affected by the prolonged shutdown, saying it is “not like it’s a gigantic number overall”.

“Put it in perspective: you’re talking about 800,000 workers, and while I feel sorry for individuals who have hardship cases, 800,000 workers if they never got their pay... you’re talking about a third of a percent on our GDP,” he said.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called the comments “appalling”, and said they were “the 21st Century equivalent of ‘let them eat cake’”.

Marie Antoinette, wife of French King Louis XVI and the last queen before the French Revolution in 1789, is thought to have used the phrase when she learnt that people had no bread.

Social media users quickly picked up on Mr Ross’s comments, deriding the commerce secretary for being “out of touch”.