The online legal defense fund for President Donald Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone met its $100,000 target in March, even after a strict gag order in Stone's criminal case halted the Republican operative's campaign of criticism against special counsel Robert Mueller.
As Stone's Nov. 5 trial approaches, former Trump political advisor Michael Caputo told CNBC that he plans to organize another crowdfunding page for his friend. Stone is charged with lying to Congress and obstructing a House investigation.
The legal fund was launched in December, after Stone, 66, was praised by Trump for vowing never to "testify against" the president as part of Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling and potential Trump campaign collusion during the 2016 election. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
"Nice to know that some people still have 'guts!'" Trump tweeted in response on Dec. 3.
Trump TWEET "I will never testify against Trump." This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about "President Trump." Nice to know that some people still have "guts!"
Stone's "Guts Fund" was launched that same day, on fundraising website GoFundMe. Less than four months later, the goal to raise $100,000 toward Stone's legal bills had been achieved, Caputo said Thursday.
Caputo said in emails to CNBC that the GoFundMe page was pulled after hitting its goal March 15.
"I will mount another campaign in the future as Roger's trial approaches," Caputo said.
Stone did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment about the fund.
Caputo, who himself was interviewed as part of a House probe into Russian election meddling, has been a vocal advocate for Stone even before federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson slapped the self-described political dirty trickster with a near-total gag order in his Washington, D.C., district court case on charges lodged by Mueller.
Stone's lawyers had argued in court that muzzling their client would hurt him since his work largely involves discussing politics in writing and in interviews.
Yet Caputo said the gag order "inspired a steady rain of support" for the legal fund.
"Donations are driven by bursts of publicity, even bad news," Caputo said. He said that most of the donations to Stone's page came after Stone was arrested in a predawn raid at his Florida home by armed FBI agents in late January, "like some kingpin of a drug cartel."
"It was a cloudburst," Caputo said.
In a follow-up email after this report was published, Caputo said: "It's important to note that my GoFundMe effort was only one small push. Roger must raise over $2 million to be able to fight the charges and he's busily doing that on his own. He is still fundraising aggressively."
Mueller has said Stone lied to Congress about his alleged efforts to have WikiLeaks release material hacked by Russian agents from Democrats, including Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, during the 2016 campaign.
Stone has pleaded not guilty, and had railed against Mueller and the judge herself in a deluge of interviews and other public remarks immediately after his arrest.
Stone was given a partial gag order by Jackson on Feb. 15, barring him and his lawyers from making statements to the media and in public that risk prejudicing the case against him. But after Stone posted a photo on Instagram showing Jackson's face next to what looked like a rifle scope's cross hair, Jackson ordered him back to court, where he apologized for the "stupid" mistake.
Jackson strengthened the gag order on Stone at that Feb. 21 hearing, forbidding him from making any public statements about his criminal case — with the caveat that he can still publicly ask for donations to his legal defense fund.
In early March, Stone once again tested the bounds of his court-ordered restriction, when Jackson discovered that a rerelease of Stone's book "The Myth of Russian Collusion" — with a newly written introduction — was put on sale.
CNBC reported that two of Stone's websites, which were used in part to raise funds for his defense against Mueller, have recently been deleted.
Earlier Thursday, The Daily Caller reported that Stone is refusing to comply with a request for documents sent by the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee as part of its sweeping probe investigating dozens of Trump-related figures and entities.
The GoFundMe page deposited money directly into the Roger Stone Legal Defense Fund, which is administered by Tampa, Florida, accounting firm Robert Watkins & Co. That firm did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.
Caputo told CNBC that "while I've not communicated with Roger since his arrest, I'm hopeful we've been helpful."
"Like all his friends, I will step up again soon."