The standard FBI booking form filled out after Roger Stone’s arrest included a notation of any “scars, marks, tattoos,” in his case a large portrait of a smiling Richard Nixon etched on his back.
The visage between 66-year-old Stone’s shoulder blades attests to his role nearly a half-century ago as a junior participant in the dirty tricks that eventually led to the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation.
A description of the tattoo now became part of the official record of his arrest stemming from his alleged role as a senior participant in dirty tricks on behalf of the current president, who increasingly seems to be in serious trouble.
“This is definitely getting much closer to home for the president and his people,” said a longtime FBI supervisor who is not involved in the investigation but has been following the developments with an experienced eye.
Stone was in handcuffs secured with a belt at the waist when he was brought into courtroom 203D in Fort Lauderdale Federal Court. The Clerk called Case 6039 of 2019.
“United States versus Roger Jason Stone, Jr.”
The magistrate, Judge Lurana Snow, read aloud the charges: witness tampering, obstruction, and five counts of making false statements. Stone was released on on $250,000 bail and raised his unshackled hands as he stood outside the courthouse in a polo shirt and jeans. He extended both arms and flashed a double “V” sign, just as Nixon often had, most famously as the disgraced president boarded the Marine helicopter that was to fly him away from the White House for the last time after his resignation.
“We've got your back, Roger!” a supporter called out, the exclamation taking on an added meaning if you considered Stone’s tattoo.
Stone had once said that “pro-Americanism” was “a common thread” connecting Nixon and Trump and therefore him. But the more recent dirty tricks in which Stone allegedly played a part are said to include Russian hackers delegated by Vladimir Putin to influence the U.S.presidential election. One epithet shouted by someone in the crowd outside courthouse one Friday would not have fit Watergate, but may end up proving appropriate for the present scandal.
The FBI had already begun a file on Stone back when he was 20, concerning his activities at the time of Watergate. But his first venture into political dirty tricks had predated that by a dozen years, and actually was directed at Nixon. Eight-year-old Roger had heeded his Catholic upbringing in 1960 and supported John F. Kennedy in a mock presidential election at his grammar school. Little Roger sought to improve the odds by going down the lunch line, telling classmates that Nixon had come out in favor of school on Saturday.
His Republican upbringing asserted itself when he arrived at George Washington University and he became chairman of the D.C. College Republicans. FBI File #139-301 — later made public by Property of the People via a Freedom of Information request — reports that in a subsequent interview with agents at the New York field office Stone reported that his activities with the College Republican led to him meeting Bart Porter, then in charge of scheduling at the Committee for the Reelection of the President (CRP.) Porter asked Stone on several occasions to engage in legitimate campaign activities.
“Such matters as crowd-raising, leafleting, and organizing support for President Nixon,” the FBI notes.
Then came a day in the spring of 1972 when Porter asked Stone to travel to Manchester, New Hampshire and plant fake leaflets at McGovern campaign headquarters and at the Manchester Union Leader. The yellow colored papers were purportedly from the fictitious Committee for a New Democratic Coalition and advised that Edmund Muskie was”the candidate of the conservative Democrats.”
Stone immediately accepted an opportunity to practice dirty tricks beyond a grammar school cafeteria. He did as bid, receiving money to cover his expenses but not for his efforts.
“Upon his return to Washington, DC., Stone immediately telephoned Porter to advise him that he had accomplished” that job, the FBI file notes. “Porter indicated that he would recontact Stone in the future.”
A fortnight later, Porter phoned Stone at his dorm and invited him to come to the CRP office. Porter there asked him if he would be willing to return to Manchester, this time to make a cash contribution at the headquarters of Rep. Pete McCloskey, a California republican who was challenging Nixon in the New Hampshire primary.
“Porter wanted Stone to disguise himself as a member of the Gay Liberation Movement when making this contribution,” the FBI file says. “Stone flatly rejected this proposal.”
The file continues, “However, he concurred with the basic theme of this tactic and this suggested that the contribution be made in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA). Porter adopted Stone’s suggestion and told Stone that he would secure stationery with the letterhead of the YSA.”
Several days later, Porter again summoned Stone to CRP and presented him with what the FBI file describes as “five pieces of white stationery which bore the blue letterhead ‘YSA. Amherst College.’” Porter also presented Stone with $125 in cash, instructing him to convert it into single bills and coins, make the contribution at McCloskey headquarters and get a receipt on the YSA stationary.
“Porter instructed Stone to dress in dungarees and a sweater in order to insure the impression of being a student,” the file says.
Stone proceeded to a bank near CRP headquarters and followed Porter's instructions. He placed the bill and coins in a large jar with a green top that he found at home.
The following day, Stone walked into McCloskey headquarters in Manchester and identified himself as the treasurer of the Amherst chapter of YSA.
“He then made the contribution of $125 contained in the hat which he had been carrying in a duffel bag,” the file reports. “He obtained a receipt which read ‘Received from YDSA, Amherst College, $125.”
That same day, Stone returned to Washington, D.C. He went to Porter’s office the following morning and handed him the receipt. Porter handed Stone a yellow legal pad.
“Porter then instructed Stone to write a letter to the Manchester Union Leader which states, in essence, that the writer of the letter was a student at Amherst College and that he understood that McCloskey had accepted a contribution from YSA. The letter stated that he was appalled that McCloskey would accept a gift from such an organization.”
Porter said he would handle mailing the letter.
He contacted Stone again later that spring, saying CRP was looking for somebody to travel to various states that were holding primaries and gather intelligence.
“In addition Porter wanted this individual to be capable of doing sophisticated political pranks which would have the effect of disrupting the election campaigns for political opponents,” the file says. “Stone told Porter that he would take this matter into consideration and contact him.”
Stone asked around and learned of a man named Mike McMinoway, who was working at a General Motors plant in Kentucky. Stone consulted with Porter, who advised him to approach McMinoway using an assumed name and pretending to represent a group of conservative businessmen who wanted to collect information and sabotage liberal democratic candidates.
“Porter instructed that Stone make this initial contact with McMinoway on a public pay telephone,” the file says.
Stone again did as bid and met with McMinoway at a hotel near the Louisville Airport.
Stone was to pay McMinoway $1,000 a month plus expenses. McMinoway was given the code name “Sedan Chair II,” an earlier CRP mole having been Sedan Chair I.
The file reports that in the Wisconsin primary, McMinoway sent engraved invitations to 200 Democrats to attend a non-existent campaign breakfast with Hubert Humphrey.
In the California primary, McMinoway jumbled the lists of potential voters so that many were never contacted and others were contacted enough times to be annoyed.
McMinoway also infiltrated campaigns in Florida, Wisconsin and California.
“He finished his tour as a volunteer for McGovern in Washington, D,C. in August, 1972,” the file notes.
In the meantime, the burglary at the Watergate had become big news. Porter was in California and Stone was tending his dog in Washington two days later when the phone rang. The caller asked for Porter and said he was Jim McCord. Stone said Porter was out of town . McCord said he would call back, adding that he would not leave a number because he was “in lockup.”
Stone understood that this must be the Jim McCord who had been arrested as one of the Watergate burglars. He managed to track Porter down in California.
“Porter asked him to recount [the] call two or three times and then told Stone it was a prank call in his opinion,” FBI papers report.
The following month, Porter called Stone to say that he would be receiving a money order for $16,050 from a California businessman named Darius Keaton. Stone picked up the money order at Western Union later that day and took it directly to Porter.
“Porter did not explain and Stone did not question,” the FBI file says.
When the Watergate scandal broke, Porter was sent to prison for lying to the FBI. Stone’s interviews with the FBI were reported in the file. He was not accused of any law-breaking, though he was subsequently fired from his new job with Sen. Robert Dole’s re-election campaign when it became known that he was involved in planting a mole during presidential primaries.
The 1980 Reagan campaign was less discerning, and Stone became the Northeast coordinator. He sought assistance from Roy Cohn, onetime right hand man to Sen. Joe McCarthy during the commie witch hunt days. Cohn was now a New York City powerbroker, and Fat Tony Salerno of the Genovese crime family was sitting in his office when Stone came to see him.
Stone said he needed money and office space. Cohn sent him to see Donald Trump, who took him out to Avenue Z in Brooklyn to meet with his father. Fred Trump is said to have given Stone $200,000 in checks, each for the $1,000 maximum campaign contribution then allowed from an individual. Fred arranged for the Reagan campaign to use an empty space next to the famed 21 Club.
As Stone would later tell it, Cohn presented him with a suitcase of cash that he then took to a prominent member of the Liberal Party, which subsequently decided to nominate John Anderson rather than support Jimmy Carter. This third entry into the race took enough votes away from Carter for Reagan to carry the state with just 46 percent of the vote.
Stone sought to cash in on his new White House connections by starting a lobbying firm with none other than Paul Manafort. Stone remained close to Trump and jumped right in when The Donald decided to run for president in 1987 as a way to publicize his upcoming book, The Art of the Deal.
The idea had been sparked by a political activist in New Hampshire who started a Draft Trump movement. Trump agreed to go there to give a speech and the activist was astonished to see how many people showed up to welcome his candidate’s arriving helicopter. An even bigger crowd packed the hall where Trump gave a speech in which he blasted Reagan in nearly identical words to those he would later use to blast Barack Obama. The crowds at the landing and at the speech had both been hired to attend by Stone, who discreetly remained in the helicopter.
In 2000, Trump enlisted Stone to help him form a supposed pro-family, anti-gambling group to challenge an effort by the St Regis Tribe of the Mohawk Indians to open a casino at the Monticello racetrack in Upstate New York. Trump was worried that the Mohawk casino would draw business away from his already struggling casinos in Atlantic City.
The St. Regis Mohawks should hold a special place in the heart of any big-time New York real estate developer, as the tribe provided many of the ironworkers who built the city’s skyscrapers. Trump paid for Stone to produce ads on television, radio and newspapers in the name of the supposedly grassroots New York Institute of Law and Society. The ads warned darkly that the Mohawks would bring crime and drugs—much as Trump would later warn about undocumented immigrants.
One ad paid for by the casino king of Atlantic City said: “Casino gambling stinks. It brings increased crime, bankruptcy, broken homes, divorce and in the case of Indian gambling, violence.”
New York State set up a Temporary Commission on Lobbying to investigate. Trump responded to written questions, saying, "I understood Roger Stone’s idea that the Institute was a more credible voice than a casino company’s.”
Trump was fined $250,000 for violating state laws regarding disclosure by lobbyists. The commission further required Trump and Stone to offer a public apology in the same outlets.
“Donald Trump [and] Roger Stone... apologize if anyone was misled concerning the production and funding of the lobbying effort,” the ad said.
The most recent caper involving Stone and Trump is not likely to be resolved with a fine or an apology. Stone was given an abrupt sense of that when FBI agents appeared at his door early Friday morning. They had been sent by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has spent the past decades engaged not in dirty tricks and hustles, but in demonstrating the ultimate power of courage, integrity, diligence and discipline. Mueller did this as a decorated Marine officer in Vietnam and as a homicide prosecutor in the District of Columbia and as director of the FBI and now as the person in charges of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
After he was brought before a magistrate as the sixth Trump associate charged in the Mueller investigation, Stone nonetheless emerged from the courthouse full of bluster and flashing the victory sign of the disgraced president whose face is tattooed on his back.
But that tattoo is now recorded on an FBI booking sheet just as a tattoo, scar or marks on any accused criminal would be. The sheet goes in the FBI records along with File # NY 139-301 from a half-century before, which seemed like no time at all when he raised his arms and flashed those two Vs.