Last month, former President Donald Trump posted a threatening image on his social media account. It featured a photo of himself wielding a bat near the head of Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney who recently announced that a New York grand jury had indicted Trump on 34 felony charges.
Trump’s post was unsurprising from a man who had spent much of his presidency glorifying violence, a pattern that culminated in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. (FN1)
But it was also reminiscent of an incident in 2019 wherein Roger Stone (Trump’s longtime advisor) used Instagram to post a threatening image of the judge presiding over his own criminal trial.
During a hearing to address the threat, Stone claimed to not remember where he had obtained the image, but he said that it might have come from one of his 5-6 “volunteers.” He identified Enrique Tarrio, the national chairman of the Proud Boys gang, as one of those volunteers.
The revelation was alarming because the gang was known for violence.
As early as 2016, the gang’s founder (Gavin McInnes) had boasted that, “We’re going to kill you. That’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell.”
McInnes was, in his own words, a “good friend of Roger Stone.”
A jury later convicted Stone on all seven counts in the indictment. Trump, however, commuted his 40-month prison sentence, thus enabling Stone to repay the favor by presiding over the 2020 “Stop the Steal” campaign. The campaign sought to reinstall Trump for a second term by deceiving the public about the election and deploying known violent extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, to intimidate lawmakers into overturning the result.
Fox News just agreed to pay Dominion Voting $787.5 million for its role in promoting the phony “Stop the Steal” narrative, much as it agreed to pay millions of dollars for spreading unfounded claims about a deceased Democratic Party staffer (Seth Rich) after the 2016 election. Stone, however, has managed to skate without consequence.
This is the fourth installment of our series chronicling how Stone and his network of miscreants have flirted with domestic terrorism and thumbed their noses at America’s justice system, while eroding voters’ ability to discern fact from fiction, right from wrong, violence from patriotism.
Here are the links to parts 1, 2, and 3.
The criminal charges against Stone arose largely from his efforts to bury his communications with Jerome Corsi, a shady political operative who had served as Stone’s primary intermediary with Wikileaks, the international organization that had boosted Trump’s 2016 campaign by publishing hacked Democratic Party emails.
You can read the Stone indictment here.
Corsi had also possessed apparent insider knowledge of the suspicious circumstances preceding the FBI’s announcement (less than two weeks before the 2016 election) that it had reopened its Hillary Clinton email probe, as we discussed in part 3. Those suspicious circumstances involved agents in the FBI’s New York field office.
They also involved communications between Stone, Corsi, and an Israeli spy in August 2016 about a potential “October surprise,” as detailed by the Nation last month.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who Congress appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, did not address potential election interference by Israel or the New York FBI in the unredacted portions of his report to Congress.
Mueller’s report did, however, discuss Wikileaks, which had published large batches of stolen Democratic Party emails before the 2016 election. Part of Mueller’s inquiry had involved determining who had given Wikileaks the stolen material. (See page 46 of Mueller’s report.)
The most obvious culprit was the Kremlin. Russian hackers had breached email accounts belonging to the Democratic Party throughout the summer of 2016, per Mueller and the U.S. intelligence community, which reached this determination with high confidence.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) described those attacks, which included spear phishing emails, in remarkable detail in a July 2019 indictment against the Russian hackers.
In June 2016, however, a Twitter persona called Guccifer 2.0 (Guccifer) had muddied the waters by insisting that he, Guccifer, was responsible for hacking the Democrats. Guccifer had also claimed to be Romanian, not Russian, and said that he had acted alone.
Guccifer, who exchanged messages with Stone on multiple occasions, turned out to be a Kremlin “cut out,” whose apparent job was to hide Russian election interference.
The U.S. intelligence community managed to trace Guccifer to Moscow because, on one occasion, Guccifer had screwed up and “failed to activate the VPN [virtual private network] client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company,” per the Daily Beast.
“Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow,” as the Daily Beast further reported.
Even before the screw up, however, there had been reason to doubt Guccifer’s “Romanian” identity in that Guccifer could not speak Romanian.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had insinuated that, regardless of Guccifer’s identity, his own source was someone else, a deceased Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer named Seth Rich. The implication was that Rich had “leaked” the emails from “inside” the DNC.
Stone and Corsi helped Assange spread the Seth Rich “leak” theory.
They had an incentive to promote this theory (and thus create distance between Wikileaks and the Kremlin) because it is a crime for a U.S. campaign to knowingly accept anything of value from a foreign government, such as Russia, and Stone had appeared to serve as an access point between Wikileaks and Trump’s campaign. (Link tweet 1; tweet 2; tweet 3.)
InfoWars (the show founded by Stone associate Alex Jones) also promoted the Seth Rich “leak” theory, as did Stone protege Jack Posobiec.
Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs spread the Seth Rich leak theory too.
So did Christian Right operatives Ed Martin and Newt Gingrich who, along with Corsi, belonged to the Council for National Policy (CNP), a powerful umbrella organization for the Christian Right and billionaires. The CNP was heavily invested in Trump’s presidency because Trump had promised in 2016 that “Christianity will have power.”
Trump had already begun to deliver on that promise, and they were not about to let the possibility of “Russian collusion” get in the way.
As for Rich, he was unable to defend himself against his accusers because he had been shot and killed while walking home from work in the middle of the night in July 2016.
Rich’s tragic murder, which has never been solved, made him a convenient, silent scapegoat for Moscow—except that Guccifer had already bragged in a tweet about giving the Democratic Party emails to Wikileaks. (Guccifer sent the tweet before accidentally revealing his Russian IP address.)
When Assange tried to distance himself from Guccifer by scapegoating Seth Rich, freelance journalist Emma Best gave him a dose of his own medicine by sending Buzzfeed News some of his private Twitter direct messages (DMs), which Buzzfeed then published.
The DMs showed that, before the first Wikileaks drop, Guccifer had offered his archive of stolen Democratic Party documents to both Wikileaks and Best, but that Wikileaks had persuaded Best to step aside and to let Wikileaks exclusively handle the release of those documents.
The DMs also included a message that Wikileaks had sent to Guccifer on June 22, 2016, stating: “‘Send any new material here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.’”
Additionally, explosive details were disclosed to the public in the DOJ’s July 2019 indictment against 12 Russian hackers.
The indictment alleged on page 18, for instance, that Guccifer had “sent WikiLeaks an encrypted attachment” on July 14, which provided “‘instructions on how to access an online archive of stolen DNC documents.’”
The indictment further alleged (on page 18) that Wikileaks had confirmed accessing the archive and that it had told Guccifer on July 18, 2022, that it would begin publishing the material that week. Wikileaks began publishing the stolen emails four days later, but “did not disclose Guccifer 2.0’s role in providing them.”
The indictment also alleged that the “latest-in-time email” released through Wikileaks was dated May 25, 2016, “approximately the same day” the Russian conspirators had “hacked the DNC Microsoft Exchange Server.”
It said that, in October 2016, Wikileaks began publishing emails belonging to John Podesta (Clinton’s campaign chairman), which had “been stolen by [Russian hacker] LUKASHEV and his co-conspirators.”
These revelations were bad news for Fox News, which had tortured Rich’s parents by spreading unfounded, incendiary claims about their dead son to millions of viewers on a nightly basis. This relentless smear campaign had caused the Rich family to sue the network.
Fox later paid millions of dollars to resolve the lawsuit. They agreed to the settlement right before Hannity and Dobbs were scheduled to testify.
Fox insisted that its settlement with the Rich family remain confidential until after the 2020 election because that’s the sort of thing that a politically biased phony news show would do. (Fox would soon launch its next election disinformation campaign, this time targeting Dominion Voting.)
By the time Fox settled the case, Alex Jones and Corsi had retracted their own promotion of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory and apologized to the family.
Posobiec had also run from the conspiracy theory—despite initially amplifying it. In Aug 2017, the Daily Beast wrote that “Posobiec has since said he does not believe in the conspiracy theory surrounding Rich and believes he was the unfortunate victim of a crime wave in Washington, D.C.”
Stone, however, never retracted his claims about Rich. Nor did the Rich family include him in their lawsuit. The family’s attorneys may have decided to give Stone a pass because he wasn’t employed by a major media outlet with deep pockets.
Stone also got lucky with Mueller and the DOJ in that they did not accuse him of “colluding” with Russia, perhaps because they couldn’t prove that Stone knew that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian cut out.
The DOJ did, however, charge Stone with perjury and obstruction of justice. The indictment accused Stone, for example, of falsely testifying that he had not discussed Wikileaks with Trump or members of Trump’s campaign.
In reality, Stone had discussed Wikileaks both with Trump (per Trump campaign official Rick Gates) and with other Trump campaign members (per Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign CEO).
The indictment also accused Stone of falsely testifying that his communications with Assange had been facilitated by a single intermediary (comedian Randy Credico), a lie that had concealed Corsi’s status as a Stone/Wikileaks go-between.
In addition, the indictment accused Stone of falsely testifying that he and his Wikileaks intermediary had never exchanged texts or emails.
In reality, as detailed in the indictment, Stone had exchanged frequent emails and texts with both Credico and Corsi. The Corsi exchanges seemed especially pertinent.
On July 25, 2016, for example, Stone had emailed Corsi: “Get to [Assange] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [WikiLeaks] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.”
Corsi had, in turn, emailed Stone on August 2, 2016:
“Word is [that our] friend in embassy [Assange] plans 2 more dumps… Impact planned to be very damaging. Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke – neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.” (Italics added.)
Corsi’s suggestion about messaging Clinton’s supposedly poor mental health mattered because Trump proceeded to do exactly that.
Corsi’s reference to “hackers” mattered because, among other reasons, it conflicted with the Seth Rich “leak” theory (the Kremlin’s cover).
In addition to perjury (5 counts) and obstruction of justice (1 count), prosecutors charged Stone with witness intimidation due to his harassment of Credico, who had crossed Stone by refusing to conceal Stone’s dealings with Corsi.
“At one point, Mr Stone suggested Mr Credico replicate a scene from The Godfather II, in which mobster Frank Pentangeli commits perjury,” as reported in the Independent.
Stone had also threatened Credico for months, including in emails in which he called Credico a “rat” and a “stoolie” and told him to “prepare to die, c#cksucker,” as detailed in the indictment.
In addition, Stone had “said that he would ‘take that dog away from you,’ referring to [Credico’s] dog,” as further detailed in the indictment. (What kind of a man threatens someone’s dog?)
Credico had taken the threats seriously due to Stone’s close ties to the Proud Boys gang, as reported and confirmed by the emptywheel blog.
In 2017 and 2018, Stone had flaunted his ties to the gang and even taken their pledge.
Stone had known Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio since 2014.
He had known Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs since 2016, at the latest, when Biggs had led a “Hillary for prison!” chant during an event co-hosted by Stone and Alex Jones outside the 2016 RNC. It was also during the 2016 RNC that Biggs had assaulted a protester and bragged about it on InfoWars, as detailed in part 1.
Stone had later praised Biggs as a “scrapper” and a “street fighter.”
In October 2018, the gang had landed in hot water due to its attack on a small group of anti-fascist protesters in Manhattan. Video showed “that the Proud Boys initiated the attack … not the other way around, as [Proud Boys founder] Mr. McInnes had initially said,” according to a December 2018 report in the Times.
Stone had become the gang’s unofficial advisor in the aftermath of that attack, as reported in HuffPost.
In December 2018, Stone and Tarrio had “stood together in a video address to the gang, and Stone called on the Proud Boys to fight back against … Mueller,” per HuffPost’s report.
It was also in December 2018 that Stone provided the opening address at the first annual American Priority Conference.
Tarrio and Biggs apparently also attended the conference, which ran from Dec. 6 through Dec. 8. Social media posts from this time show them posing with KellyAnne Conway (who is listed in the CNP’s 2014 directory) and former White House press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, another darling of the Christian Right.
The conference was co-founded by convicted felon Ali Alexander, a one-time CNP member who had joined with Stone and other Stone associates in promoting the “Stop the Steal” campaign in Florida the month before. (See part 2.)
Alexander would later partner with Stone on the 2020 “Stop the Steal” effort as well.
Alexander has recently been accused of soliciting nude photos from a 15 year old boy.
There were additional American Priority Conference speakers who had participated in the 2018 “Stop the Steal” campaign in Florida, including Stone protege Jack Posobiec, Stone protege Laura Loomer, and Jacob Engels (Stone’s longtime assistant).
Loomer recently bragged that, during that campaign, she had “broken the story” that ballot boxes had supposedly been found in an Avis rental car in Broward County, Florida.
The DOJ should consider investigating who rented that car because these people cannot be trusted, as evidenced by their myriad hoaxes, including:
– The “Rape Melania” sign that Posobiec planted at a left-wing protest in 2017 (in an attempt to make the left seem violent),
– The efforts of Jacob Engels to help convicted felon Joel Greenberg falsely accuse his opponent of pedophilia, and
– The botched smear campaign launched by Loomer, Alexander, and Jacob Wohl (one of their cohorts) against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), which we discuss later in this piece.
In the meantime, here are two more photos from the 2018 American Priority Conference. The first features Loomer, Posobiec, Engels, and Biggs. The second features Loomer with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a self-described “Christian nationalist,” who had just won her seat in Congress.
The DOJ indicted Stone on Jan. 25, 2019, about three months after the conference.
That night, following Stone’s arrest, Loomer led a group of supporters in greeting Stone at his home.
Two days later, Tarrio reported for duty outside Stone’s home sporting a”Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” tshirt.
On Feb. 13, Loomer and Tarrio attended a fundraiser for Stone’s defense at the Hialeah Republican Club whose president, Julio Martinez, was a director of Veterans for Trump (VFT). (VFT’s co-founder, Joshua Macias, would later participate in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.)
On Feb. 18, Tarrio scored a VIP seat at a Trump rally in Miami. He wore a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” tshirt to the event.
It was also on Feb. 18 that Stone used his Instagram account to post an image of the judge in his case next to a logo resembling crosshairs.
During the ensuing court hearing, Stone claimed to “not know” where he had received the image, but said it might have been from Tarrio (the Proud Boys national chairman) or Jacob Engels, Stone’s longtime assistant who handled press relations for the Proud Boys, attended their events, and worn “Proud Boys” tshirts.
Stone told the court that Engels and Tarrio worked for him as “volunteers” and that he had given them access to his cell phone and social media accounts.
Stone identified two additional “volunteers” as well: Proud Boys gangsters Tyler Whyte and Rey Perez (who also belonged to the youth group Turning Point USA).
To prevent further harassment, the judge slapped Stone with a social media gag order, which she later expanded to include Stone’s family and surrogates.
But the gag order applied only to public discussions of Stone’s case.
Thus, on Feb. 28, 2019, Tarrio (Stone’s “volunteer”) was free to attend CPAC, an annual Republican conference founded by Matt Schlapp, a co-chair of Catholics for Trump, who would later join with Stone and Ric Grenell (Trump’s former acting Director of National Intelligence) in spreading unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud in Nevada in 2020.
Schlapp was also an alumnus of the astroturf “Brooks Brothers riot,” which had stopped the hand recount in the 2000 presidential election, throwing the race to evangelical Republican George W. Bush. (Schlapp is #6 in the photo below.)
As discussed in part 1, Stone himself had presided over the Brooks Brothers riot, using a walkie talkie as he sat in a nearby Winnebago.
During CPAC 2019, Tarrio posed for photos with Trump’s son (Don Jr.) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), another favorite of the Christian Right.
Later that year (in July 2019), Tarrio and Engels circulated a petition to designate the Antifa (antifascism) movement as a terrorist organization, thus deflecting from the gang’s own violent proclivities. Cruz introduced a Senate Resolution based on their petition. Rep. Brian Fitz (R-PA) sent a letter to the DOJ with the same demand around the same time.
This was an especially alarming development for Cruz who had been on the receiving end of Stone’s attack machine in 2016 when Stone had accused Cruz (Trump’s top primary opponent) of voter fraud and Cruz’s father of involvement in murdering President John F. Kennedy.
At the time, Cruz had said that “Mr. Stone is a man who has 50 years of dirty tricks behind him. He’s a man whom a term was coined for copulating with a rodent.” Now Cruz was working with Stone’s attack machine to target anti-fascists.
As for Loomer, she had joined with Jacob Wohl (another far right provocateur) and Ali Alexander in attempting to undermine Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) by portraying her as a violent Muslim extremist in February and March 2019.
The stunt backfired when Wohl was found to have sent death threats to himself. (FN3)
Trump recently considered hiring Loomer for his 2024 campaign, but apparently changed his mind after a public backlash.
Stone reunited with some of this same crew (Tarrio, Loomer, Engels, etc) at the second annual American Priority Conference in October 2019. By then, the conference had changed its name to AMPFest. (ALX Events is the host.)
The event “featured a gruesome video depicting … Trump shooting and slaying members of the media, as well as his political opponents,” per Mother Jones. Event organizers later claimed that the video was “unauthorized.
AMPFest 2019 also featured Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a Stone operative who has said that Stone “recruited” him in 2013.
It was during AMPFest 2019 that Gaetz was caught on a “hot mic” assuring Stone backstage that “the boss” (Trump) “still had a high opinion of Stone” and would not let him “go down.”
The following month (Nov 2019), Gaetz led the “storming” of a House impeachment hearing, a move that was reminiscent of Stone’s “Brooks Brothers” riot.
The impeachment hearing had arisen from a phone call in which Trump had threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine, which was battling Russian aggression, unless Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky investigated Senator Joe Biden, Trump’s anticipated 2020 opponent.
Like Gaetz, the Proud Boys opposed impeachment and made their position known during an event in Pennsylvania (near Rep. Brian Fitz’s office) and an event in Florida.
The House voted to impeach Trump (despite Gaetz’s stunt), but the Senate refused to convict, thus enabling Trump to remain in office, a perch that gave him the power to commute sentences and grant pardons.
As for Stone, his ties to the Proud Boys were on full display when his own case proceeded to trial in Nov 2019. Tarrio and Biggs hovered outside the courthouse wearing “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” shirts.
And the gang’s founder, Gavin McInnis, “reported” on the trial with Milo.
Alex Jones and Jacob Engels, Stone’s longtime assistant, harassed a juror on InfoWars.
Jacob Wohl (the guy who sent himself a death threat) assisted them by leaking copies of jury questionnaires with names on them.
Steve Bannon, who had managed Trump’s 2016 campaign, bucked the trend by testifying for the prosecution—against Stone.
Bannon’s testimony helped prove that Stone had lied to investigators when he denied discussing Wikileaks with Trump’s campaign.
On Nov. 9, one day after Bannon’s testimony, Biggs said that he had plans to “hang out” with Stone, who cannot have enjoyed what Bannon had told the jury.
Less than a week later, the jury convicted Stone on all counts.
The news prompted Biggs to post on Parler, “Storm the Capitol and the Kangaroo court!!!”
In another post, Biggs declared that, “Roger Stone is family to me. So don’t come at me like anything else. Cuz I’ll fucking put your ass in check quick.”
A few days later, however, Biggs was all smiles as he dined with Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) in Washington DC. “About to see @realDonaldTrump at Trump International in DC,” Biggs bragged in a since-deleted Instagram post.
Far right provocateur Cassandra Fairbanks, another Stone protege, was apparently watching them. “Can confirm. I was sitting at a table near them,” she later wrote in a since deleted tweet, adding “Whoooops @SenLindseyGraham.”
Prosecutors later recommended a sentencing range for Stone of between seven and nine years, in accordance with sentencing guidelines.
Their recommendation emphasized the crosshairs incident and stated that Stone had also “decided to double – and triple – down on his criminal conduct by tampering with a witness [Credico] for months in order to make sure his obstruction would be successful.”
But Attorney General Bill Barr, a CNP-aligned Catholic fundamentalist, withdrew the recommendation and issued a new, watered down version, after Trump criticized the original recommendation in a tweet.
During the ensuing sentencing hearing, the judge skewered Stone’s phony “did nothing wrong narrative,” remarking that, “He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
The judge also pilloried Stone for his crosshairs stunt remarking that, “It wasn’t an accident he had a staff that helped him do it. Using the new social media is his sweet spot.”
Finally, the judge condemned Stone for lying under oath and obstructing justice, stating that, “Sure, the defense is free to say, ‘So what?’ But I’ll say this. Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United State’s Attorney’s Office … that prosecuted this case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. And I care.”
She sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison. It was less than half of the originally recommended lower range, but it was still something.
It was easy to believe at the time that the arc of the moral universe was finally bending toward justice.
Unfortunately for America, Stone would soon persuade Trump to bend it back the other way.
To be continued…
In May 2020, a “nationwide review conducted by ABC News … identified at least 54 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.”
Late last year, the DOJ expressed interest in Engels’s involvement in the 2018 “Stop the Steal” effort.
This was not Wohl’s first ethical transgression, nor would it be his last.
At some point, both Wohl and Loomer were employed by Censored TV, a media platform founded in 2018 by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes (Stone’s friend), as reported in Salon. Loomer had appeared on the show as early as December 2018. Censored TV employed Wohl and Loomer even after the death threat fiasco.
Alexander brought Wohl with him when he testified to the January 6th Committee in December 2021. In other words, he was apparently unfazed by Wohl’s misconduct. These people are charlatans.