Roger Stone’s Crimes | The New Yorker
Roger Stone is now a convicted felon, which is one honorific he had avoided during his decades of tumultuous public life. He was convicted on Friday of witness tampering and making false statements to the House Intelligence Committee, on an indictment obtained earlier this year by the office of the special counsel Robert Mueller. Stone has a tattoo on his back of Richard Nixon, his first political hero, and I suspect Stone is about to discover the difference between Nixon and the other President whose interests he has served, Donald Trump.
Through more than a decade of covering Stone, writing several stories about him, I’ve learned that government policy has never been a particular interest of his. “I’m a libertarian and a libertine,” he once told me, which seemed to sum up both his ideology and his life style pretty well. What interests him is the cacophony of politics—the struggle of one party, or one candidate, to crush another. He talked often about the concepts of toughness and loyalty, which are his highest values, and the ones he associates most closely with Nixon. Trump’s fortunes have always waxed and waned, but Stone has stayed loyal to him; Trump’s first flirtation with a Presidential run, in the late nineteen-eighties, was midwifed by Stone.
Stone’s troubles—and now his downfall—came about because he is, to put it charitably, a bullshit artist. He is a rare political figure who exaggerates his evil deeds rather than his good ones. When I first profiled him, in 2008, he claimed major roles in such varied scandals as the so-called Brooks Brothers riot, during the 2000 Florida recount, and the prostitution bust that brought down the New York State governor Eliot Spitzer, in 2008. (His role in both remains unclear.) It was this perverse kind of boastfulness that led to Mueller’s case against him.
Stone was a peripheral player in Trump’s 2016 campaign. Like so many people associated with Trump, he was publicly fired but remained a phone pal of the candidate. After his firing, Stone found his way back into the campaign’s inner circles thanks to his purported familiarity with WikiLeaks, which, in July, 2016, released thousands of e-mails that had been stolen from the Democratic National Committee. That kind of dirty trick was deeply appealing to Stone, and he tried to become a conduit between WikiLeaks and the campaign. Notably, as came out in the trial, he apparently had several conversations with Trump himself about the WikiLeaks disclosures—something Trump denied under oath, in his written answers to Mueller.
The lies for which Stone was convicted reveal his longing to be involved in the Trump campaign more than any real connection he might have had to it. He was asked by the House Intelligence Committee whether he had any e-mails regarding the hacked documents released by WikiLeaks. “Not to my knowledge,” he answered. In fact, he had exchanged dozens, if not hundreds, of e-mails about WikiLeaks, many with Randy Credico, an eccentric radio host and comedian in New York. Those e-mails showed Stone puffing about his connections to the group—which he exaggerated significantly. Still, his lie about the e-mails doomed him in court. Another lie involved his denial that he had tried to get more information from WikiLeaks. Clearly, Stone did try—but he failed to get the information he sought.
After Stone’s conviction, Trump released an indignant tweet complaining that Stone had been prosecuted though many of the President’s enemies had not. No one should expect that Stone, now facing the prospect of a prison sentence, will turn on Trump and provide incriminating evidence. That’s against the code by which Stone has lived his life; more important, Stone was so far outside Trump’s inner circle that it’s unlikely that he has much evidence to provide.
President Trump has also hinted that he will consider pardons for all of his associates who have been convicted or pleaded guilty as a result of the Russia investigation. This includes Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairman (and Stone’s onetime business partner). But Stone, as a veteran of Trump’s world, knows that loyalty is a one-way street for the President: Trump expects it but does not provide it. A pardon might impose a political cost on Trump, and he almost certainly won’t be willing to pay it, at least until he’s a lame duck. It’s a lonely feeling to be convicted by a jury, and Stone is likely to remain on his own—as least as far as the President is concerned—for the foreseeable future.