One of the more unfortunate byproducts of Trump’s rise has been the validation of unhinged, fringe political figures, from Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones to the squeaky-voiced Pizzagate apologist Mike Cernovich. Roger Stone is one such character.
Stone, a notorious Republican “dirty trickster” with a decades-long career of shady behavior and resigning in disgrace, served as an official advisor to the Trump presidential campaign until August 2015, after which he took on an unofficial advisory role to candidate Trump—a man he’s known since the ‘80s and ‘90s, when he lobbied on behalf of Trump casinos.
It is Stone who convinced Trump to appear on Jones’s Infowars program in December 2015, and Stone who not only seemed to know of WikiLeaks’ dumps targeting the Clinton campaign before they happened, but also publicly admitted to communicating directly with self-proclaimed DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 (widely believed to be a Russian government creation), as well as to WikiLeaks honcho Julian Assange via a “backchannel.” Stone was forced to cop to the Guccifer chatter, which occurred via private Twitter DM, after reports surfaced of the August 14th communications on The Smoking Gun. On August 16th, Stone appeared on Infowars and alleged he had “backchannel communications” with Assange who was harboring “political dynamite” on the Clinton campaign. Five days after that, he tweeted the following:
If that weren’t enough, on October 1st Stone appeared to tease WikiLeaks’ upcoming Podesta email dump, tweeting (and then deleting), “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
Friday night, Bill Maher welcomed Stone to his Real Time program for a contentious interview. Introducing Stone as a “longtime confidante” and the “Albino Assassin” of President Trump, Maher asked, “Both Dick Cheney, not exactly a liberal, and John McCain, same thing, have both said this hacking [allegedly by Russia] of our election would be considered ‘an act of war.’”
“If we had some evidence or proof of it,” Stone replied. “Right now, what we have is inference.”
Some background: On March 18th, The New York Times revealed that a Senate intelligence committee investigating Trump-Russia ties had sent Stone a letter ordering him to preserve any records in connection to their inquiry, and on March 21st, the ranking Democrat on that committee, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), told Morning Joe, “We know the Russians intervened, and they hacked leaks of information to help Trump over [Hillary] Clinton,” adding, “We are going and starting interviewing people right now. We have a number of the names you have talked about. We saw in the case of [Roger] Stone, for example, he hit the trifecta. He had been in contact with WikiLeaks. He knew about [John] Podesta being ‘in the barrel,’ and he acknowledged recently, he had contact with a Russian agent.”
When Maher asked Stone about Sen. Warner’s comments, he went on the defensive. “Yeah, I dispute that,” said Stone. “Let’s take them one by one. First of all, I have never said that I had advance knowledge of the hacking of Podesta’s emails. There’s no quote from me…”
“…You said his ‘time in the barrel’ will come,” interrupted Maher. “Right. And there’s been over a hundred stories written from that time to Election Day about [Podesta’s] dealings in Russia: bank deals, gas deals, and others. That’s what I was referring to,” Stone fired back. “The inference that Guccifer, that my Twitter exchange with Guccifer constitutes…”
Maher then chimed in again, telling Stone that his “direct” communications with Guccifer 2.0 via Twitter DM were “not supposed to be public.” When Stone alleged, “But it is public because I released it all. No one else released it, I released it,” the HBO host nailed him with: “I don’t think that’s true. I think you released it after it became public.” The rejoinder caused Stone, visibly shaken, to stammer through an incoherent reply: “I… and I released it after it became known that it existed, which could only be known… which could only be known if my… if my Twitter feed had been hacked,” he said. “And I released it. It’s benign. It’s innocuous. And if you’re going to engage in espionage, would you really do it on Twitter?”
Stone, who told Maher that he believes Guccifer 2.0 “is a hero” because Stone is “opposed to the deep state” and that “they need to be exposed,” also claimed: “I don’t concede that Guccifer is a Russian,” repeating Guccifer 2.0’s empty claim that they are “Romanian,” and further stated: “I’ve had no contacts with Russians.” The talk then moved on to Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor who was forced to resign in disgrace after it was revealed that he conducted undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, a top spy recruiter for the Kremlin. It’s since come to light that Flynn was acting as a paid agent of the Turkish government while working on the Trump campaign, and even argued for the extraordinary rendition of Fethullah Gulen, an anti-Erdogan Turkish imam living in Pennsylvania. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn would be willing to testify in the Trump-Russia investigation in exchange for immunity.
“Let’s talk about Michael Flynn,” said Maher. “He says he has a story to tell. Tell me a story: what is the story? What do you think his story is?” “I have no idea, but here’s what I do know: I am not asking for immunity,” Stone replied. “I was maligned by a number of members of the committee who said things that were patently false, and in a free society I should have a chance to respond in the same forum. And I don’t need a subpoena, I don’t need immunity, but I want it to be in public—not behind closed doors. Let’s go, I’m ready!”