Now he has been arrested, how long will Roger Stone remain loyal to Donald Trump?

The question now is not about Stone’s past. It is what effect his arrest will have on the future of Donald Trump – someone he had been encouraging to run for the presidency since the 1980s

Kim Sengupta
Friday 25 January 2019 18:53 GMT
FBI makes Roger Stone arrest

“I’m not talking to the FBI and if your [sic] smart you won’t either. You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends – run your mouth my lawyers are dying [to] Rip you to shreds,” reads an email that Roger Stone, one of Donald Trump’s closest and oldest confidantes, allegedly wrote to a witness in the Russiagate investigation.

The email, which reads like a bad line from a gangster film, emerged in the indictments against Stone which were made public after his arrest in the early hours of this morning, with suitable dramatic footage supplied by the presence of CNN cameras at his home in Fort Lauderdale.

The arrest itself was not unexpected. “Robert Mueller is coming for me,” Stone had apparently told his friends back last August, saying that he was on the special counsel’s “hit list” of targets. He was innocent, he told his social media followers, asking for donations from them to help pay for his legal defence.

Nor was there particular surprise that 66-year-old Stone is caught up in the swirling intrigue surrounding the inquiry into whether Trump was the Muscovian candidate in US election. He had relished projecting himself as someone operating on the “dark side”, a self-described “dirty trickster” whose past had included working with Richard Nixon’s notorious CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) when, according to evidence obtained during the Watergate investigation, he played a part in smearing a Nixon opponent by planting false stories.

“Tricky Dicky” has also played a part in his legal fundraising with T-shirts on sales for $33 each with his photo alongside that of Nixon with the words: “If I weren’t effective you wouldn’t hate me.” He also enlisted the help of his pets to raise money, putting out a video of two small terriers mouthing “Roger Stone did nothing wrong”, apparently an echo of how Nixon, countering allegations of a slush-fund on TV, invoked his pet dog Checkers.

The question now, however, is not about Stone’s past. It is what effect his arrest will have on the future of Donald Trumpsomeone he had been encouraging to run for the presidency since the 1980sas Mueller continues with his investigation and the House intelligence committee, reinvigorated under Democrat control and the chairship of Adam Schiff, restarts its investigation into the president and the Moscow connection.

The Stone indictments bring into focus another of the seam of British connections which runs through the Russia investigation. US intelligence, it is believed, first heard about the alleged Trump-Russia connection through a conversation the then-Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, had with George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy advisor, at a wine bar in London. Papadopoulos later went to jail for lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians.

Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer based in London, wrote a dossier on Trump which became an important part of the Mueller inquiry.

And now we have one of the key allegations of Kremlin interference – the hacking of Democratic party emails – bringing together Stone, WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in his bolthole at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The Mueller indictment states that during the presidential race, Stone talked regularly to Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. "Stone was contacted by senior Trump campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organisation 1,” the indictment states. WikiLeaks is called Organisation 1 in the indictment. “On multiple occasions, Stone told senior Trump campaign officials about material possessed by Organisation 1 and the timing of future releases.”

In late July 2016, Stone allegedly began mentioning contacts with Assange. He reportedly told a then friend, the conservative author Jerome Corsi, to “get to” Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and obtain the pending WikiLeaks emails. He allegedly instructed that Ted Malloch, a Trump supporter in London, should see Assange.

In August, Corsi allegedly emailed Stone describing what he claimed were Assange’s plans: “Word is a friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back [from a European trip] 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”

That month, Stone reportedly emailed Sam Nunberg, another Trump advisor: “I dined with Trump last night.” He later said that this was a joke. But he went on to stress that he was communicating with Assange “through an intermediary, who is a personal friend”. On 5 August, Stone tweeted: “Julian Assange is a hero.” Three days later, he apparently said: “I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there’s no telling what the October surprise will be.”

Roger Stone: 'As I have always said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about'

In October, Stone claimed that a friend of his had met with Assange and learned “the mother lode is coming Wednesday”. When nothing appeared on that Wednesday, Stone tweeted: “Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming....” Assange published hacked emails from Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta, three days later.

Corsi and Nunberg, in Stone’s Assange correspondence, have now testified to federal investigators in the Russia probe. The “rat...stoolie” rant by Stone was apparently addressed to another witness, radio host Randy Credico, who Stone is alleged to have tried to persuade to give false testimony. He has been charged with witness tampering for allegedly trying to get Credico to tell lies to the inquiry and also indicted on five counts of false testimony to the House intelligence committee.

Stone has publicly vowed never to turn on Trump. But the same pledge was initially made by others arrested by the Mueller team; faced with possible heavy jail sentences, they started cooperating with the investigation. We await to see how steadfast Stone remains in his pledge of loyalty to the man he advised to run for the White House for two and half decades. We can, meanwhile, expect more to emerge about the shadowy London link to Russiagate.

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