Early this morning, a group of 29 heavily armed FBI officers carried out a pre-dawn raid to apprehend the foppish 66-year-old Republican political consultant Roger Stone at the request of special counsel Robert Mueller. At last our streets are safe, or at least they were before Stone was immediately released on $250,000 bond. CNN, apparently tipped off to the raid, lurked outside Stone’s Florida home to capture video of the arrest.
Perhaps Roger Stone appreciated the FBI’s cheap political stunt. No operative in recent memory has earned and encouraged a greater reputation for political dark arts than Stone. A longtime friend and political advisor to President Trump, Stone played his first dirty trick in grade school and boasts that he hasn’t stopped since. Here are just a handful of Roger Stone’s greatest hits:
Third Graders For Kennedy: Though he currently sports a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back, in 1960 eight-year-old Roger Stone supported John F. Kennedy for president. When his Connecticut grade school asked students to choose the next president, Stone recalls that he stood at the end of the cafeteria line and told every student that Richard Nixon wanted school on Saturdays. Kennedy won in a landslide.
Who Framed Pete McCloskey?: After Barry Goldwater’s 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative pushed Roger Stone politically rightward, he rose up the ranks to play a minor role in the Watergate scandals. Under the pseudonym Jason Rainier, Stone made contributions on behalf of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, a Republican primary opponent of Nixon in 1972. He then sent the receipts of his donations to the Manchester Union Leader to paint McCloskey as a leftist interloper.
The Brooks Brothers Riot: While Roger Stone likely had little effect on the outcome of the 1960 presidential election, he may have played a more consequential role in 2000, when he relates that former Secretary of State James A. Baker III recruited him to assist the recount fight in Palm Beach County. In Miami-Dade, Stone purchased advertising on Latin radio stations because, as he observed, “Latin media is unique in the sense that when you buy advertising you also are buying programming. If you buy, you get to supply the guests.” Stone offered his Spanish-speaking wife to spread the notion among a largely Cuban-American population that Gore’s recount constituted a political power grab reminiscent of Fidel Castro. As he tells it, Stone’s efforts culminated in the so-called “Brooks Brothers Riot,” a GOP-coordinated demonstration that shut down the recount in Miami-Dade.
Phony, Psycho, Piece-of-S**t Spitzer: On March 17, 2008, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace seven days after The New York Times exposed his use of high-priced prostitutes. Stone took credit for Spitzer’s fall from grace, claiming he first heard of the Governor’s illegal dalliances from a call girl at a Miami swingers’ club. He later worked on behalf of New York State Senate Republicans to dig up dirt on the governor, at one point leaving a threatening message on Spitzer’s answering machine that concluded, “There is not a g**dam thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-s**t son can do about it.” In the months leading up to the resignation, Stone told friends that Spitzer would not last. After the scandal emerged, Stone claimed to have sent a letter to the FBI informing the agency of his conversation at the Miami night club.
Not everyone believes Roger Stone’s stories. The FBI appears never to have received Stone’s letter regarding Spitzer’s affairs. As for the election recount in 2000, Republican lawyer Brad Blakeman claims that Stone had no role in the Brooks Brothers Riot. “I was the guy in charge of the trailer, and I coordinated the Brooks Brothers riot,” Blakeman told Jeffrey Toobin in an extensive profile for The New Yorker. “Roger did not have a role that I know of.” President Trump went further. “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” Trump declared. “He always tries taking credit for things he never did.” On close inspection, one wonders if Stone actually played any of the dirty tricks that have made him infamous.
Now Roger Stone stands accused of obstructing a congressional inquiry and of witness tampering. Mueller’s indictment alleges that Stone informed senior Trump campaign aides as early as June or July 2016 that he knew WikiLeaks had obtained documents damaging to Hillary Clinton. By then, however, the hacked emails had already been released to the public. In August, Stone claimed to have been in contact with WikiLeaks; in September 2017, he denied any direct contact with the organization.
WikiLeaks agrees with this latter characterization. “Stone is playing slovenly Democrat-aligned journalists like a fiddle, brilliantly inserting himself, as is his habit to raise his public profile and market his books,” according to a Wikileaks spokesman who observed that Stone “was pushed out of the Trump team a long time ago for just this time of opportunism.” The most convincing evidence that Stone did not collude on behalf of the Trump campaign with any foreign actors is that he bragged about having done so. Roger Stone’s dishonesty may save him — perhaps his dirtiest trick yet.