Poor Roger Stone.
“I kind of understand how the Christians felt when the people in the Coliseum were screaming for the lions to be unleashed,” he told The Daily Beast.
By any measure, the self-described political “provocateur”—who burst upon the scene as a 19-year-old dirty trickster for President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, the youngest person of interest in the Watergate scandal—is in a world of hurt.
Today, at 65, Stone is coping with what he considers the very real possibility that special counsel Robert Mueller will indict him for unspecified crimes arising from the 2016 presidential campaign (despite his protests of innocence), while he estimates that he has paid his attorneys—he’s also a defendant in two lawsuits—as much as half a million dollars.
Stone told The Daily Beast that he’d been saving up for a college fund to benefit his five grandchildren, “but I have been forced to deplete that to pay for legal fees. It will get more expensive as time goes on. I have no choice but to fight—and fight, I will.”
In a video posted Sunday by Alex Jones’ conspiracy-peddling InfoWars channel, Stone—outfitted in a black shirt and black beret, looking like a French cat burglar—predicted: “I will be targeted in an effort to trump-up charges against me to get me to turn on Donald Trump. Not happening… It is now abundantly clear that [Mueller] intends to frame me on some conjured-up, concocted offense in an effort to leverage my testimony against the president of the United States.”
But: “I will never roll on him!” Stone vowed to The Daily Beast.
Worst of all, perhaps, President Donald Trump has pretty much stopped talking to him.
This must be especially painful, because Stone—like Trump, a friend and protégé of the proudly villainous Roy Cohn—encouraged the reality television mogul’s nascent political ambitions and, as depicted in the Nextflix documentary Get Me Roger Stone, played a key role in Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party and the White House. (Stone was a paid adviser to Trump and—after he left in August 2015 due to antagonism with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski—a volunteer surrogate.)
“I’m sure his lawyers have urged him not to speak to me until the ‘Russia Collusion Delusion’ is resolved,” Stone said, by way of explaining why his conversations with the president have gone silent in recent months. “But he has sent me warm wishes through mutual friends.”
Stone claimed Mueller’s investigators “have come up empty-handed” in their search for evidence against him—notwithstanding that the special counsel has typically kept his powder dry until ready to fire, and, in something akin to a miracle, has successfully avoided leaks.
Then why is Stone so sure?
“Because I know what I have done,” he insisted. “There is no Russian collusion. I never received anything from WikiLeaks or Julian Assange or the Russians and passed it on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign or anyone else.”
But Stone was quick to add: “When I speak about Russian collusion, I’m speaking about it in regard to myself. I’m not aware of any Russian collusion or coordination or conspiracy on anyone else’s part… but I’m certain about myself.”
Stone, however, has acknowledged his friendly direct-message Twitter exchange during the campaign with “Guccifer 2.0,” the moniker of the alleged hacker of the Democratic National Committee emails, who has been linked to the Russian intelligence services and identified by The Daily Beast as an officer in Russia’s military intelligence directorate.
During a March 2017 appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO show, Stone praised WikiLeaks’ release of the DNC’s emails and said of Guccifer: “I think he is a hero. I’m opposed to the deep state. I think they need to be exposed.”
Speaking this week, Stone said he actually believes Assange is a hero and doesn’t remember giving Guccifer that encomium.
Stone subsumes his multifarious grievances—against the Justice Department, the FBI, Trump’s political opponents, and the mainstream media—under the jaunty façade of a happy if brutal warrior (a smartly dressed one, at that).
He has cultivated that image since he dropped out of college in 1972 to enlist in America’s political battles full time as a strategist, Washington influence peddler, libertarian polemicist, conspiracy theorist, and foppish anti-hero.
Wearing a double-breasted blue blazer, white Polo shirt, skinny jeans, and sockless Gucci loafers (his description of his habiliment over the phone), Stone submitted to a wide-ranging interview on the occasion of his latest book, Stone’s Rules: How to Win at Politics, Business, and Style.
He did so even though his book repeatedly slags off The Daily Beast as a den of “elitist twits” and “effete snobs” among “too many other leftist propaganda factories” and “fake news sites.”
“I’ve never called you an elitist twit—and I won’t,” Stone vowed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as sundown approached. “I’m sorry to have cut into your martini time—and mine.”
The book, with an introduction by Fox News host Tucker Carlson (“Roger Stone is a troublemaker”), is an occasionally crude, frequently profane hodgepodge of recipes, wardrobe tips, PR ruses, and political fisticuffs advice, enumerated in 140 rules to live, fight, dress, eat, and drink by.
Rule # 4: “Past is Fucking Prologue”: “To understand the future, you must study the past.”
Rule #9: “Dress with Sprezzatura”: “A gentleman must show a graceful, easy carelessness. Never reveal calculation or effort.”
Rule #14: “Never Be Scared of Anyone or Anything.”
Rule #25: “A Black Square-bottomed Knitted Silk Tie is a Necessity.”
Rule #36: “Brown is The Color of Shit.”
Rule #41: “Attack, Attack Attack—Never Defend.”
Rule #54: “Hate Is A Stronger Motivator Than Love.”
Rule #64: “Campaign Finance Reform Has Done for Politics What Pantyhose Has Done For Finger Fucking.”
Rule #103: “Never Ride in a White Limousine.”
Over the course of the phone interview, Stone strictly adhered to Rule #81 (“Admit Nothing; Deny Everything; Launch Counterattack”) although he seemed less than fully committed to Rule #119 (“The Press is Not The Enemy”)—a bit of advice conspicuously rejected by the 45th president.
Stone, of course, has made himself extremely accessible to the news media, even when he knows their stories might ding him. He told The Daily Beast: “I think The Washington Post and The New York Times have a number of hardworking journalists who are just trying to report the news as they research. There are others for whom I do not have as high a respect—particularly in the opinion area.”
That sounds reasonable enough, yet it doesn’t stop him from deploying ad hominem rhetorical violence against journalists who displease him.
He is apparently deeply irritated by MSNBC anchor Ari Melber’s Tuesday evening report on Mueller’s escalating interest in Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, well before the rogue site released a cache of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Stone complained that Melber, host of The Beat (a show on which Stone has eagerly appeared), “shouldn’t try to pose as a journalist. He’s a partisan—and not a very smart one.”
The segment also featured another of Stone’s bête noires, Wall Street Journal reporter Shelby Holliday, who co-authored an influential May 24 blockbuster detailing Stone’s September 2016 emails to an intermediary aggressively seeking damaging information about Clinton from Assange. This, the WSJ reported, “could raise new questions about Mr. Stone’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in September, in which he said he ‘merely wanted confirmation’ from an acquaintance that Mr. Assange had information about Mrs. Clinton.”
“That she calls herself a journalist is embarrassing,” Stone said about Holliday, who has been also been the target of his Stone Cold Truth blog, in a post titled “The Fake News of Shelby Holliday and The Wall Street Journal.”
Stone complained that Holliday and other journalists have deliberately “ignored” what he called “exculpatory evidence” in order to fit a “preconceived narrative” that he must have done something wrong—whether it was soliciting illegally hacked emails or lying under oath to Congress.
The newspaper shot back: “The Wall Street Journal has full confidence in Shelby Holliday and our fair and accurate reporting. Roger Stone is hurling personal attacks in response to factual reporting that he doesn’t like.”
Melber and MSNBC, meanwhile, declined to respond to Stone’s broadside.
Stone embraces all manner of conspiracy theories. He has written books arguing that Lyndon Johnson arranged the murder of John F. Kennedy, and that George H. W. Bush is actually the head of a crime family. He continues to believe that somebody poisoned him last December with a radioactive substance that could have been polonium.
“The doctor believes there was some radioactive component; I’ve never been so sick in my life,” he said. “I was much sicker than you’d be from eating a bad clam. I had night sweats and lesions all over my face and my chest, and I had spiking fevers. I had no appetite, and I lost almost 20 pounds. It was a horrific experience.”
Stone added: “I feel fine now.”