The Atlantic, January 25, 2019
He relished his late-night phone calls with Donald Trump in 2016. He was regularly in touch with a senior Trump campaign official about WikiLeaks’ plans to destroy Trump’s foe, Hillary Clinton. And now Roger Stone, the longtime adviser to Trump and a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster,” has met his reckoning. Just before 6 a.m. on Friday, federal agents wielding guns and ballistic vests arrested Stone, who was then indicted on seven felony counts including obstruction and witness tampering by Trump’s other biggest foe—Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Stone said on Friday that he intends to fight the charges and go to trial.
Throughout his decades-long career operating in Republican circles, Stone, who has a likeness of Richard Nixon tattooed on his back, has taken pride in mastering the “black arts” of politics. He’s been accused of threatening political opponents, has been sued for defamation, and regularly spreads conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination and Hillary Clinton’s infidelity. He served as Trump’s Washington lobbyist in the late 1990s and early 2000s and has been encouraging him to run for president for more than a decade. “Roger’s relationship with Trump has been so interconnected that it’s hard to define what’s Roger and what’s Donald,” Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, said of Stone in a 2017 documentary. Though he wasn’t initially seen as an integral part of Trump’s campaign, he kept hovering—and now the dirty tricks have finally caught up with him.
“It’s a sunny place for shady people,” Stone said, quoting W. Somerset Maugham when asked by The New Yorker in 2008 why he lives in Miami. “I fit right in.”
The indictment unsealed on Friday offers the clearest link yet between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, and suggests that the Trump campaign might have known about additional stolen emails before they were released. In late July 2016, after WikiLeaks had released stolen Democratic emails, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign,” the indictment said.
The indictment also details the extent of Stone’s scheming in 2016 to find emails damaging to Clinton; how he communicated those plans to Trump’s campaign team; and his efforts to prevent a key witness from disclosing his efforts to the FBI, calling him a “rat.” His false statements to the House Intelligence Committee during his September 2017 interview about his ties to WikiLeaks comprised five of the seven counts against him.
Over the past two years, more and more evidence has emerged of Stone’s wrongdoing as details have been reported about his conversations with associates and interactions with WikiLeaks in 2016. But he has remained defiant, taking to Instagram regularly to proclaim his innocence, attacking critics, requesting donations for his legal defense fund, and consistently swearing that he would never turn on Trump. He stuck to that on Friday, telling professional conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in an interview shortly before his appearance outside the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, federal courthouse that he would never “bear false witness against the president,” and that the charges brought against him were “thin” and “bogus.”