EL PAÍS interviews Roger Stone, a veteran adviser and ideologue of the tycoon, whom the FBI investigates in case he knew in advance of the Russian electoral interference At age eight, Roger Stone carried out what he calls his first political trick. In the prelude to the 1960 presidential election, his school held a fictitious ballot. He wanted Democrat John F. Kennedy to win, and to convince his classmates he decided to make up a lie: to tell the dining room that Republican Richard Nixon wanted the kids to go to school on Saturdays. Kennedy won with comfort.
It was followed by countless hoaxes or false truths that have made Stone the most provocative and deceitful of conservative political advisers. He has worked for almost every Republican president in the last four decades. A 64-year-old, histrionic dress with a tattoo of his idolized Nixon on his back, is a key figure to understand American politics. Also the rise of Donald Trump, who has been a lobbyist and ideologue in the shadow since they met in 1979. Without Stone, lobbies would have less power and in politics there would be less struggle to denigrate the rival under the thesis that anything goes for Win an election.
It moves within the confines of morality and often erupts into the backroom of major controversies, from the Watergate to the 2000 vote count, which was lost by Democrat Al Gore. His eye for dirty rags and his influence is mythical or disdainful, but it always ends up talking about him. Now it is back in the eye of the hurricane by the alleged Russian connection of the surroundings of Trump. The FBI is investigating whether Stone had any role in Moscow’s interference in last November’s presidential campaign. And on July 24, he will appear behind closed doors on the House Intelligence Committee that analyzes the Russian plot.
He denies any irregularity. He rejects the accusation that he knew in advance of the cyberattack against the Democratic Party or Wikileaks publication of the stolen information. “As I was probably spied from June to November, anyone who has looked at my emails, messages and calls knows that I had no contact with anyone who represents the Russians,” the consultant says in a telephone interview. “There is nothing to investigate.”
But his public appearances and messages have fueled speculation. Before Wikileaks broadcast the e-mails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, Stone boasted that he had “communicated” with Julian Assange, the organization’s founder, and had material on the Democratic candidate to be released earlier Of the elections. He also anticipated that Podesta would have “soon” problems. And after hacking the Democrats, he exchanged messages on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker linked to the Russian intelligence services.
Stone claims that he did not speak to Assange but to a “mutual friend”, that the reference to Podesta was for an article he was preparing and that his contact with Guccifer 2.0 was “harmless”.
He says he is not worried about the FBI investigation and explains that he has not been interrogated yet. He says he is delighted to appear in Congress, although he regrets that it is behind closed doors. And he is willing to talk to Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who investigates Trump’s Russian ties, though he believes he should resign because of his closeness to James Fry, the former FBI director whom he fired the Republican in May.
As the president, he feels comfortable going against the current. He denies that Russia stole Democratic couriers or that the goal was to help the New York billionaire win the election. “It’s a pretty fairy tale, it can be repeated as much as you want but there is still no proof,” he says.
The 17 US intelligence agencies have officially accused Moscow, but the adviser believes that conclusion is an offensive. “The president is right. It’s a witch hunt devised to destabilize and delegitimize its presidency, “he says. Stone accuses officials close to Barack Obama, who make up the “deep state” of the “industrial military complex,” upset over Clinton’s defeat because he “probably promised them the expansion of the war in Syria.
The phrase exemplifies Stone’s passion, shared by Trump, for unproven conspiracy theories, such as that Lyndon Johnson devised the assassination of Kennedy or that Bill Clinton has a secret son.
It is difficult to know where the consultant’s mind ends and the president’s. They both love reality TV, post incendiary messages on Twitter, enjoy provocation and insults, and believe the best defense is an attack. “The only thing in politics worse than being wrong, is being boring and Trump is never boring. His idiosyncratic style is what led him to win the election and I do not think he should change, “Stone says. “Given the level of opposition, the president is doing extremely well.”
Stone met Trump 38 years ago in New York through Roy Cohn, the dark McCarthy lawyer who helped him in the Ronald Reagan campaign. Their relationship has suffered ups and downs, but the advisor has remained faithful to the tycoon. “Roger is a loser cold as ice. He always tries to attribute things he never did, “Trump snapped in 2008 to The New Yorker. But in a recent documentary about Stone on Netflix, Trump praises him.
Stone helped the construction entrepreneur in 2000 when he flirted with the idea of a presidential adventure and did so in the first few months of the campaign that led him to the White House. Trump claims that he dismissed him because he assumed too much prominence, Stone argues that he left. Be that as it may, it’s easy to see your hand on some of the pillars of the Republican’s electoral strategy: message against the elites, closeness to radical conservative media, and fierce attack on Bill Clinton’s affairs to weaken Hillary’s female vote.
The president has to remember who his followers are and remember that they are the ‘forgotten Americans’ who are suffocated by high taxes, suspicious of Wall Street, allergic to Goldman Sachs, tired of lack of job opportunities and convinced that the system is rigged Against them (and it is), “Stone writes in the book on Trump, The Making of the President, which he has just published.
The exlobista declines to reveal how often he talks to the president, says that in May he received a message from him and that he has not visited him in the Oval Office. He thinks the Russian plot is a “distraction,” but he says Trump is on the right track because he is keeping his promises. “I think it has been underestimated in every moment and continues to be underestimated,” he says. “Since 1988 I believed that Trump had the ability and the height to be president,” adds Stone, who attributes his victory to voter fatigue with “false career politicians.”
In these five months of presidency, many wonder if Trump’s populist and crude style will forever change the way he does politics in the first world power. “If it succeeds, there will be more politicians trying to act like it,” replies Stone, although he admits that what has worked for Trump does not have to do it for others.
What will not change is the dirty game behind the pulse for power. “Politics is not gentle, it is abrupt and aggressive. It has always been that way and always will be, “he says. Does the end justify all means? “Breaking the law is never acceptable. But that does not mean that you do not do things to dramatize your political point of view and I certainly have done that, “he replies. “I practiced the game in a cool way.