Roger Stone Did Something Wrong
Roger Stone rides in a golf cart with a man wearing an Oath Keepers hat after outside of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2021.Caroline Brehman/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA Press
Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.Roger Stone, the longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump and a recipient of a pardon last month, was a lead promoter of the election lies that led to the January 6 attack on Congress. Now the self-styled dirty trickster is covering his tracks.
In the weeks before riled-up Trump supporters looking to overturn the election assembled in Washington, DC, Stone worked to raise money for “private security” and equipment for events there on January 5 and 6 that preceded the storming of the Capitol. But the “Stop the Steal” website where Stone solicited funds was subsequently taken down. Though he now claims to have merely encouraged “peaceful” protests of Congress, he struck a fiery and apocalyptic tone in speeches leading up to the Capitol attack. At a DC rally on December 12, he exhorted his rightwing fans to “fight until the bitter end” to prevent Joe Biden from taking office. Speaking at a rally in Freedom Plaza the night before the Capitol riot, Stone urged the crowd to join an “epic struggle.”
At that event, Stone appeared to be receiving protection from a security detail composed of members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group. And Stone for years has maintained close ties to members of the Proud Boys, whose leaders treat him as a mentor. Members of both groups face criminal charges for their role in the assault on Congress.
Stone did not respond to Mother Jones’ questions about his connections to these outfits and his role in rallies preceding the attack. But elsewhere Stone has insisted that he had nothing to do with the insurrection.
“A careful review of my language of January 5 indicates that I played no role whatsoever in advocating violence or any inappropriate or illegal activity,” Stone told ABC News. In a January 8 appearance on RT, the Russian-government influenced propaganda outlet, Stone denounced the violence at the Capitol. “That’s not how we settle things in America,” he said on a show called “Eat the Press.” But then he added: “I do understand the frustration of those involved,” faulting courts and other government entities for failing to support Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. (Stone also said that he had been “invited to lead a march to the Capitol” on January 6 but had “declined.” He didn’t say who invited him.)
Stone, it seems, wants to have it both ways, to remain a hero to the Capitol’s looters, while denying any part in encouraging them. That is typical for him. Since Watergate, in which he had a bit part at the age of 19, Stone has regularly promoted himself as a key player in right-wing political scheming—and then insisting he had no culpability for illegal or controversial acts. He seeks the publicity and attempts to duck the consequences. As he summed it up on teeshirts he hawked to raise money for his legal defense in 2019 when he was being prosecuted for lying to Congress about Russiagate: “Roger Stone did nothing wrong.”
But Stone has done plenty. Stone was an early promotor of some of Trump’s biggest lies, an exuberant architect of the false reality that primed Trump’s fans to storm the Capitol rather than accept the truth that he lost. Since 2016, Stone, echoing Trump, has repeatedly asserted that Russia was not responsible for the hack and release of Democratic emails, despite the unanimous findings of US intelligence agencies, the Justice Department, and eventually Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This denial that Russia meddled in 2016—a false assertion that began while the Trump campaign was welcoming the attack and seeking to benefit from it, as Robert Mueller later concluded—set the stage for Trump’s false claim that the Russia scandal was “a hoax.”
Stone in 2016 publicly bragged that he was in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and sold himself to Trump’s campaign as an “access point” to the group. When investigations into Russian’s interference took off after Trump’s victory, Stone pivoted. He claimed that he had exaggerated his role and denied direct contact with WikiLeaks. In a September 2017 interview with the House Intelligence Committee, Stone lied about his efforts, as an informal Trump campaign operative, to contact WikiLeaks and about his communications with Trump and the Trump campaign regarding his interactions WikiLeaks, as prosecutors later showed. In late 2019, a Washington DC jury convicted Stone of five counts of making false statements of Congress, obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and witness tampering. Stone escaped a 40-month prison term when Trump commuted his sentence in July. A pardon followed in December.
By then, Stone was pushing a new Trump lie: the false claim that Trump was cheated of an electoral victory by fraud in key states. Prior to the election, Stone, in an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, urged Trump to invoke martial law if he lost in November.
In a way, Stone had been preparing for this moment for years. In 2016, he launched a nonprofit and website under the name Stop the Steal. The group originally raised money that Stone said he would use to prevent the Republican Party from denying Trump the delegates he needed to secure the GOP presidential nomination at its July 2016 convention. In 2020, as Trump allies adopted that name for their effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory, Stone relaunched the site, which began redirecting readers to an article on Stone’s personal webpage arguing Biden had not legitimately won. An employee at a law firm that often does work for Stone set up a new nonprofit, Committee to Stop the Steal, on October 16.
After midnight on Saturday, December 12, as Proud Boys and others right-wing activists gathered in Washington for the “Million MAGA March,” Stone addressed a large group from the steps of the JW Marriott, calling Trump the election’s rightful winner. “Nothing is over until we say it is,” Stone said. “We will fight until the bitter end for an honest count of the 2020 election. Never give up. Never quit. Never surrender and fight for America.” The next day, Trump supporters engaged in a violent rampage in downtown DC.
Stone has also claimed to have personally advised Trump against accepting the election results. In a post on the Parler social media platform that conservatives flocked to late last year, Stone said he had urged Trump in a late December meeting to “appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure Donald Trump continues as our president.” Trump tried early this month to take such a step, but was rebuffed.
As Trump backers began planning to descend on Washington on January 6, when Congress was set to officially certify Biden’s Electoral College victory, the Stop the Steal site was updated to redirect to a fundraising page.
In that post, Stone did urge a “peaceful” protest. But he baselessly asserted the election was stolen from Trump through “systematic voter fraud and cyber manipulation of the vote.” Stone also falsely stated that George Soros, the financier and philanthropist featured in many far-right conspiracy theories, had funded violent “attacks on our peaceful patriots.” Stone requested contributions “for private security at every one of our events, as well as funds for permits, staging, transportation, and legal fees.” The solicitation was taken down after the January 6 attack, but is archived by the Wayback Machine.
Stone did not respond to inquiries about how much money he raised or how he used the money.
In posts on its website, the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia organization composed of current and former military, police, and others announced its members would be providing security in case of any violence targeting pro-Trump demonstrators.”We Welcome Coordination With Other Patriot Groups,” the organization said in a January 4 post. When Stone spoke to Trump backers at two events on January 5, men in “Oath Keepers” hats and jackets appeared to act as a security detail for him.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors indicted three members of the Oath Keepers with conspiring weeks in advance to assault the Capitol and participating in the riot. The organization is loosely organized, and there is no evidence the individuals charged were directly connected to Stone’s apparent security detail.
Stone seems eager to distance himself from the attack on the Capitol and his role in the events preceding it. He claims on his website that he “called for peaceful protest in my speech in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday” January 5. But speaking to hundreds of pro-Trump protesters that night, Stone did not call for peaceful protest. He did not urge violence either. But he struck an ominous tone. “Let’s be very clear,” he said. “This is not an election between Republicans and Democrats. This is not a fight between liberals and conservatives. This is nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of this country between dark and light, between the godly and godless, between good and evil. And we will win this fight or America will step off into a thousand years of darkness. We dare not fail.”
On Monday, YouTube said it had removed a video of Stone’s remarks for violating the company’s terms of service.
At that evening rally, Stone also told the audience of Trump loyalists, “I will be with you tomorrow shoulder to shoulder.” That wasn’t true. On Wednesday afternoon, while Trump backers were rampaging in the Capitol, Stone was headed to Dulles Airport for a flight back to his Florida home. Five people died during that attack. More than 150 people have so far been charged with crimes related to this insurrectionist raid. And the House impeached Trump for a second time. But Roger Stone, once again, says he did nothing wrong.