Political fixer Roger Stone deserves more in depth scrutiny than the bipartisan January 6th Committee could or did provide in its recent 814-page report, which focused primarily on former President Donald Trump. Although the report mentioned Stone 76 times, it would be difficult to overstate the role that Stone played in the 2020 “Stop the Steal” effort, a coordinated campaign that relied on a firehose of falsehoods and the specter of potential violence to try to overturn Trump’s 2020 defeat.
The Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol occurred on the heels of that campaign. Leaders of the Proud Boys (who are currently on trial for their role in the assault) and Oath Keepers (many of whom have already been convicted for their role in the assault) allegedly plotted in advance to disrupt the transition of power. Both extremist groups were inclined toward violence even before the Stop the Steal campaign inundated them with unfounded claims about a stolen election.
Both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers had also worked with Stone who, in 2000, had coordinated a manufactured rebellion outside a Florida election office in order to disrupt the recount in the presidential race between Republican George W. Bush and then Vice President Al Gore. The event is often called the “Brooks Brothers riot” because many of the demonstrators were Republican operatives in business attire.
Per his own account, Stone presided over the protest using a walkie talkie as he sat inside a nearby Winnebago.
The protest was more physical than is generally known. (If you haven’t watched a video of it, here’s one that I recommend.) Demonstrators shouted “Let us in! Let us in!” as they pounded on the door to the vote-counting room. According to The New York Times, “several people were trampled, punched or kicked when protesters tried to rush the doors.” (Italics added.)
The disruption stopped the recount just as Bush’s lead had dwindled to only 537 votes. The recount never resumed, throwing the election to Bush.
Even Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Stone’s longtime friend, has said (in the introduction to one of Stone’s books) that Stone “subverted democracy” during the 2000 recount. He apparently meant it as a compliment.
Now imagine a modern-day Brooks Brothers riot, except with Stone’s friends from the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers leading the assault. Try adding in a cabal of Stone-associated propagandists—including a former president, a retired Lieutenant General, and a team of attorneys (supposed “officers of the court”)— who inflame these extremist groups and others with unfounded claims about a stolen election.
Unfortunately, we don’t have to imagine it. We lived it on Jan. 6.
Stone has served as Trump’s informal adviser for decades. The two men were introduced by their mutual mentor, the late mafia lawyer Roy Cohn. Like his proteges, Cohn disdained the law, once proclaiming, “I don’t want to know what the law is. I want to know who the judge is.” He was disbarred before his death in 1986.
According to author Tim O’Brien, Cohn taught Trump to “use lawsuits like machine gun bullets.”
As for Stone, he learned from Cohn that “nothing’s on the level.” Stone says that, as a young man, he attended a meeting with Cohn and Fat Tony Salerno (the future mob boss of the Genovese crime family) during which Cohn imparted that, “everything’s fixed. Everything can be handled.”
In 1980, upon Cohn’s request, Stone delivered a suitcase to an attorney associated with the Liberal Party of New York. The contents of the suitcase were apparently intended to persuade the Liberal Party to run a spoiler third-party candidate to siphon votes from then President Jimmy Carter in the presidential race in New York. But he claims that he didn’t look inside the suitcase to see what it contained.
The Liberal Party did run a spoiler candidate in 1980. The spoiler, John Anderson, did siphon enough votes from Carter to throw New York state’s 41 electoral votes to Ronald Reagan who secured the presidency that year.
It was also in the 80s that Stone formed a lobbying firm with a slick political operative named Paul Manafort. The firm was known as the “Torturer’s Lobby” due to its willingness to represent brutal dictators. (Link to tweet.)
Stone was smitten with one of the firm’s biggest clients: Donald J. Trump. He has said that he wanted Trump to run for President as early as 1987.
When Trump finally decided to run for President in 2015 (for the 2016 election), Stone served as a “top strategic adviser” to the campaign.
He officially left the campaign in August 2015 but remained in contact with Trump and even drafted proposed tweets for him about wanting a “detente” with Russia. According to Manafort, who joined the campaign in March 2016, the two men had remained so “interconnected” that it was “hard to define what’s Roger and what’s Donald.”
In October 2015, Stone brokered Trump’s appearance on InfoWars. Then, as now, the show featured Alex Jones, a rabid conspiracy theorist who had repeatedly and falsely claimed that the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013 were paid actors.
Jones has since been ordered to pay more than $1.4 billion to the victims’ parents who endured years of harassment from Jones’s gullible gun-crazed followers.
Trump’s embrace of Jones also helped him secure the support of Jones’s alarmingly large audience. In January 2017, Stone claimed in an interview with the Connecticut Mirror that Jones had reached between 18 and 19 million people per day in the last week of the 2016 election.
Jones ensured that these followers loathed Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. On Nov. 4, 2016, Jones told them, “When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton has personally murdered and chopped up and raped, I have zero fear standing up against her.” (Link to tweet.)
During the 2016 campaign, Jones employed Army veteran Joe Biggs as a “reporter.” The two men had known each other for years.
Biggs later joined with Jones and Jack Posobiec (one of Roger Stone’s proteges) in promoting Pizzagate, the lie that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats were running a satanic pedophile ring in the basement of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in DC.
One of Jones’s followers eventually opened fire inside the pizzeria while searching for non-existent child prisoners. Miraculously, no one was hurt. Jones apologized only after the pizzeria owner threatened legal action against him.
Biggs had secured his job at InfoWars in 2014, the year of the armed standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government over Bundy’s refusal to pay $1 million in grazing fees. (Link to tweet.)
The Oath Keepers had traveled to the ranch to support the Bundy’s during the standoff, which ended when federal agents retreated.
(In 2017, Stone would lobby Trump for Bundy family pardons, which probably endeared him not only to the Bundy’s but also to the Oath Keepers.)
Biggs missed the Bundy standoff in 2014. But he caught up with the Oath Keepers in 2015 during their armed patrol of demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. The demonstrations marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, a Black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer. The Oath Keepers provided security for Biggs as he covered the demonstrations for InfoWars.
Biggs had also reported on the original 2014 riot sparked by the shooting. A photo from that event shows Biggs wearing a hat and overalls emblazoned with “1776,” a reference to the American Revolution.
By then, “1776” had become a rallying cry of InfoWars and Alex Jones. In 2013, Jones had infamously told Piers Morgan that, “1776 will commence again if you try to take our guns.” In 2008, he had written a book called, “The Answer to 1984 is 1776.” The date would also become a rallying cry of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Biggs and Jones traveled to the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC), which ran from July 18 through July 21 in Cleveland, Ohio.
On the first day of the RNC, during the “America First Unity Rally,” the two men led a “Hillary for prison!” chant.
The rally was co-hosted by Jones and Roger Stone who was late to the event, explaining to the audience that he had been delayed due to “meetings … with members of the Trump staff” (despite supposedly no longer working for the campaign).
Two days later, in a since-deleted InfoWars video, Biggs bragged about assaulting a protester who had been exercising his First Amendment right to burn the American flag. “I ripped the guy’s shirt off and just punched him and kicked him and the cops were like ‘ahh.’ It was intense, man,” Biggs boasted in the video.
A Proud Boy since 2018 (at the latest), Biggs is currently on trial with other one-time Proud Boys leaders, including Enrique Tarrio, who worked as a “volunteer” for Stone while serving as national chairman of the Proud Boys organization.
Each of these Proud Boys leaders has been charged with seditious conspiracy for their alleged involvement in the effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Like Biggs, Jack Posobiec (the Stone protege who helped spread Pizzagate) attended the 2016 RNC in Cleveland. During an event near the RNC, he was photographed standing behind Stone.
In March of that year, Breitbart News had published an article that called Spencer a leading “intellectual” of the “alt right.” The article had ignited a brief wave of quasi-mainstream support for Spencer and his movement because it had downplayed the movement’s Nazi-esque tendencies. The piece had been co-written by Stone’s friend, Milo Yiannopoulos.
Spencer’s popularity soon tanked due to his followers’ penchant for throwing Nazi salutes in public and his involvement in the deadly “Unite the Right” rally, which he organized with then Proud Boy Jason Kessler in Charlottesville, Virginia. (We will discuss the rally further in Part 2.) Somewhere amid the bipartisan backlash from these incidents, Milo and Posobiec soured on Spencer as well.
For a time, however, Posobiec had spread antisemitic messaging himself. Less than a week after the 2016 RNC, Posobiec had replied to Joe Biggs on Twitter with a quote tweet where he put a Jewish reporter’s name inside triple parentheses, an antisemitic hate symbol known as an “echo.” Posobiec’s use of the echo symbol was also reported by Hatewatch.
A few months later, Posobiec posted multiple tweets that included “1488,” another anti-Semitic hate symbol, as further reported by Hatewatch. The “14” stands for a well known 14-word slogan about securing the future for white children. The “88” stands for “Heil Hitler” because “H” is the 8th letter in the alphabet.
Posobiec also became involved with the Oath Keepers. In April 2017, he told his followers on Periscope that he worked closely with the organization. By then, the Oath Keepers had been involved in two more attempts (beyond the Bundy ranch standoff in 2014) to generate armed standoffs, one at Sugar Pine Mine and another at White Hope Mine.
Posobiec didn’t say how he had hooked up with the Oath Keepers, but Joe Biggs would be a good guess. Posobiec had posted a photo of the two two men together in October 2016.
Manafort had spent most of the preceding decade representing former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovuch.
He had landed the Ukraine job after Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election in which Yanukovych’s pro-western opponent, Viktor Yuschenko, was poisoned by a particular strain of dioxin, found only in a handful of countries, including Russia (but not Ukraine).
Yuschenko had remained in the race despite suffering excruciating pain and disfigurement from the assassination attempt.
Independent exit polls funded by the U.S. and other western countries showed that Yuschenko had defeated Yanukovych , 53 to 44 in the race. But according to the official report, Yanukovych had won 49.5 to 46.0.
The official results were rigged.
Telephone intercepts of discussions between members of Yanukovych’s campaign staff showed that the campaign had tampered with the server of the state electoral commission to alter the results in favor of Yanukovych.
A “do-over” election was conducted. This time, official results showed that Yushchenko, the pro-western candidate, had won, 52 to 44, similar to the exit polls from the initial election. Yanukovych, who had been supported by Putin, conceded in disgrace.
It was Manafort’s job to help Yanukovych stage a comeback. He succeeded when Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010. Yanukovych’s 2010 opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, claimed the 2010 election was stolen. But unlike 2004, there were no tapes to prove it, and the U.S. called the election free and fair.
More trouble ensued in 2013 when Yanukovych scotched a much anticipated trade deal with the European Union (E.U.) in favor of closer ties to Russia. The decision prompted mass protests that escalated into a revolution when state police shot protesters. The revolution is called Euromaidan (or “Maidan”) because the protesters were shot in Maidan Square.
When the revolution erupted, Yanukovych fled to Moscow where he asked Putin to intervene militarily on his behalf.
The same year, a “Russian-speaking hacker operation” called CyberBerkut hacked Ukraine’s election reporting system. In 2015, Russian military officers allegedly hacked Ukraine’s power grid as well. (They were indicted in 2020.)
The U.S., in coordination with the E.U., responded to Russian aggression toward Ukraine with sweeping sanctions. Putin wanted them lifted without relinquishing Crimea. For that, he needed a friend in the White House.
In 2015, Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election by hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC), John Podesta (Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman), and the Republican National Committee (RNC). It held onto most of the RNC documents. But according to a detailed indictment against the Russian hackers, the hackers used an encrypted file to send the Democratic Party documents to Wikileaks, an international organization run by Julian Assange.
Assange released a batch of them right before the 2016 DNC in Philadelphia, triggering a large, supposedly organic anti-DNC demonstration amplified by Assange with the hashtag #FeelTheBern, an apparent endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s primary opponent, Bernie Sanders. Below is a photo of Posobiec who attended the protest.
In October 2016, Stone told CBS News that, “I do have a back-channel communication with Assange, because we have a good mutual friend” who “travels back and forth from the United States to London and we talk.” After one of the Wikileaks dumps, Alexandra Preate (Steve Bannon’s longtime publicist) sent Stone a two-word message: “Well done.”
Some of the documents published by Wikileaks spawned the Pizzagate hoax (promoted by Posobiec, Biggs, and Jones) when conspiracy theorists made specious claims about them, such as the notion that references in the documents to “cheese pizza” might be code language for “child pornography.”
Simultaneous with the Wikileaks dumps, an anonymous Twitter account published fake medical records, creating the false impression that Clinton was gravely ill, a lie promoted by Stone and other Trump surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani.
The Christian Right engaged in sketchy behavior during the 2016 campaign as well. In 2015, a Christian data analytics company called “United in Purpose” was tied to a massive leak of 191 million voter data files. In November of that year, the data turned up on a Russian hacker’s elite forum. United in Purpose had been founded by a convicted embezzler who had served time in San Quentin.
After the leak, a United in Purpose director, Bob McEwen, met in Ukraine with a political operative named Borys Kolesnikov. Kolesnikov was a close associate and deputy of Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukrainian oligarch who had financed Manafort’s work in Ukraine.
A few months before McEwen met with Kolesnikov, Manafort himself had directed a business associate to prepare detailed memoranda to Kolesnikov and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who also had financed Manafort’s work but now claimed that Manafort owed him money.
During the RNC (over which Manafort presided), the GOP made one change to the party platform: removing language about arming Ukraine against Russian aggression.
Manafort also shared detailed campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian operative who had worked for Manafort’s firm in Ukraine. Manafort reportedly expected Kilimnik to share the data with Deripaska (a close associate of Kilimnik) and others in Ukraine, including Serhiy Lyovochkin who (according to the New York Times) was involved in the vote-rigging conspiracy during Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election.
Russian hackers also attacked the country’s election infrastructure, successfully breaching (at a minimum) voter registration systems in “a small number of states” (including Florida and Illinois) and an electronic pollbook supplier (VR Systems) used in multiple states. According to a bipartisan congressional report, they targeted systems in all 50 states.
Then President Barack Obama would later assure the public that the federal government had “not seen evidence” that vote tallies were changed. Had such evidence existed, however, the government may not have been well positioned to find it. Some states, including Pennsylvania, still used paperless voting machines in many counties, precluding manual audits and manual recounts. The courts shut down the recounts (such as they were) after Trump’s legal team and a Trump PAC objected to them anyway.
During the campaign, however, Stone claimed without basis that the primary and general election would be rigged against Trump.
It was during the 2016 campaign that he coined the “Stop the Steal” slogan. He formed a “Stop the Steal” PAC and website to fundraise, asking for $10,000 donations by saying, “If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.”
He even threatened to send angry Trump supporters to the delegates’ hotel rooms to “stop the steal” during the RNC.
Stone made it known that he had thuggish friends by headlining a “Bikers for Trump” event, also during the RNC. The organization was founded in 2015 by Chris Cox, a one time DC insider who didn’t own a bike himself but had nonetheless corralled plenty of people who did. Cox later said that the group’s intention was to “protect” Trump with a “wall of meat.”
After Trump secured the Republican nomination, Stone turned his attention to the general election where, absent Russian interference, Trump’s prospects seemed bleak. The outlook was so dismal that 123 Republican leaders wrote an open letter urging the RNC to cut funding to Trump’s campaign, which the RNC didn’t do.
In the face of Russian election interference, Stone insinuated that Democrats would rig the election against Trump. During an interview with Milo, he encouraged Trump to “say for example, … ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.’”
In support of this claim, Stone said that “Hillary Clinton [had] met privately” with Dr. Brenda Snipes, the election supervisor in Broward County, Florida, an assertion that Snipes and Clinton both denied. Stone “promised that photos of the meeting would be available ‘shortly’ on the website http://infowars.com. But two days later, there were no photos on the website. Stone couldn’t be reached for comment.”
It wasn’t until after Trump himself defied the polls to win the 2016 election that “Stone recanted the allegation against Snipes. He said he’d been given incorrect information which he [had] repeated,” as reported by the Sun Sentinel.
Stone later told WhoWhatWhy that Trump’s team had planned to block tunnels and roads if, in their estimation, there had been “overwhelming evidence” that Trump lost the election due to fraud (despite Russia’s help).
Under that scenario, Bikers for Trump and the Proud Boys might have come in handy. Stone’s friend, Gavin McInnes, had founded the Proud Boys in September 2016.
McInnes had announced the group’s formation in Taki’s Magazine where Richard Spencer (the antisemitic “alt right” leader) was an editor.
“We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell,” McInnes later said of the organization he created. “Can you call for violence generally? Because I am,” he added.
Part two drops next week!