Before Indictment, Roger Stone Had Longtime Ties to Trump

January 25, 2019
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by Patrice Taddonio Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist
Catherine Trautwein Tow Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowship

Roger Stone, a veteran Republican political operative and close associate to President Donald Trump, has been indicted for giving “false and misleading” testimony to the House intelligence committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to recently unsealed court documents. The seven-count indictment includes charges of obstruction of a proceeding, witness tampering, and making false statements.

The charges are the latest development in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential coordination between Trump associates and the foreign power. Stone was arrested at his home in Florida this morning. He was released later that day on a $250,000 bond.

The indictment alleges Stone talked with members of the Trump campaign about “Organization 1” – now understood to be Wikileaks – and “information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.” It also claims senior Trump campaign members reached out to Stone to ask about “future releases” by the group, which was founded by Julian Assange.

Stone has said that he stands by his Congressional testimony, in which he claimed he had “no involvement in the alleged activities that are within the publicly stated scope of this Committee’s investigation – collusion with the Russian state to affect the outcome of the 2016 election.”

“Members of this Committee have made three basic assertions against me which must be rebutted here today. The charge that I knew in advance about, and predicted, the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email, that I had advanced knowledge of the source or actual content of the WikiLeaks disclosures regarding Hillary Clinton or that, my now public exchange with a persona that our intelligence agencies claim, but cannot prove, is a Russian asset, is anything but innocuous and are entirely false. Again, such assertions are conjecture, supposition, projection, and allegations but none of them are facts,” his prepared written testimony said, as published by The Washington Post.

Stone and Trump’s paths have been intertwined for decades. They first met in 1979, when Stone was working on Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in New York state, and lawyer Roy Cohn got him a meeting at Trump Tower.

The two men “became very good friends,” Stone said in an interview with FRONTLINE for The Choice 2016. Their relationship developed further in 1981, after Stone co-founded a political consulting firm with Charlie Black and Paul Manafort, who Mueller has also indicted. Stone was hired to represent Trump’s interests in Washington, a role that included getting him waivers and permits.

For instance, Stone told FRONTLINE he was involved in acquiring permits after Trump’s purchase of a yacht from Saudi businessman and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi (the uncle of slain writer Jamal Khashoggi): “He buys the Trump Princess from Khashoggi, but it’s too big to come into the Atlantic City harbor without dredging. He needs dredging permits. Those usually take three years,” Stone said. “We got them for him in a couple months.”

Ultimately, Stone told FRONTLINE, “I’m handling both state and federal issues for him on and off for 30 years.”

Stone would go on to play a key role in Donald Trump’s eventual political rise. Later in the 1980s, he arranged campaign-like events for him in New Hampshire – and he told FRONTLINE he urged Trump to run for president in 2000.

“You can see the first seeds of Trump-mania in California in 2000. But if he were here today, he would say, ‘You know, you wanted me to do that more than I wanted to do it,’” Stone told FRONTLINE. “And that would be true.”

He also said he thought Trump had been motivated to run for the presidency the night President Barack Obama roasted him during the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“I think that is the night that he resolves to run for president. I think he is kind of motivated by it … ‘Maybe I’ll just run. Maybe I’ll show them all,’” Stone said in the below excerpt from the documentary.

Stone worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign until August of 2015 but remained a supporter of the candidate afterwards, according to his prepared testimony.

However he said in a recent interview with Hill.TV that although he and the president still talk occasionally, Stone believes Trump’s lawyers “have advised him not to contact me.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said this morning that Stone’s indictment “doesn’t have anything to do with the president, doesn’t have anything to do with the White House.”

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