What exactly was Roger Stone's role in Capitol riot? The next Jan. 6 hearing could tell us




  • In Politics
  • 2022-10-05 09:01:16Z
  • By USA TODAY

At its upcoming hearing, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to train a spotlight on the activities of political "agent provocateur" Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of former President Donald Trump.

Stone, 70, was an architect of the "Stop the Steal" movement that claimed falsely that Trump actually won the 2020 election but had it stolen from him by supporters of Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

In the days leading up the Capitol siege, Stone also was in close contact with key Trump campaign and White House officials - and members of two right-wing extremist militia groups the committee says helped foment the Jan. 6 attack, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

The committee reportedly plans to air documentary footage and other information that raise new questions about what role Stone might have played in trying to help Trump remain in power - both in the run-up to the election and the Jan. 6 effort to stop Congress from certifying Biden's electoral victory.

"Roger Stone is connected to almost every piece of the Trump family and Trump associates and those that were on the ground and rally planners," said Denver Riggleman, a former senior Jan. 6 committee investigator and author of the new book, "The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation into January 6th."

"It's about the link maps, it's about the people he was in contact with," Riggleman, who investigated the connections of the riot planners and Trump associates like Stone, told USA TODAY. "The committee understands that, and that's why you see this real concentration on him, this attention on him."

A spokesman for the Jan. 6 committee did not respond to requests for comment on what the panel has planned for its next public hearing. It is not formally scheduled it, after canceling a hearing planned for Sept. 28 due to Hurricane Ian.

Here's a look at what the committee is investigating in relationship to Stone:

More: Is the Jan. 6 committee sitting on explosive evidence of Trump's role in the Capitol assault?

Did Roger Stone's role in 'Stop the Steal' help launch the Capitol riot?

The committee has obtained damning video footage of Stone explaining - long before the Nov. 3, 2020 election - how the Trump team should plan to claim victory while the votes were still being counted and then challenge anyone who contests that, with violence if necessary.

Snippets of the footage, taken by Danish filmmakers who trailed Stone on and off for several years, have aired on CNN, which reported that the committee plans to air them too.

In one comment, filmed in July 2020, Stone all but lays out Trump's "Stop the Steal" blueprint for trying to overturn the election months before voters went to the polls.

First, Trump and his supporters would insist they won the election, challenge election officials, with force if needed, and then throw the issue into the courts so that Trump-appointed judges could hand him a victory.

"That's ... basically what Bush did to Gore" in the infamous Florida recount in 2000, Stone told the filmmakers in footage aired by CNN. "We'll say, these ballots are fake. Your results are invalidated. Goodbye. That's the way it's going to have to look… It's going to be really nasty."

In another segment filmed just days before the election and aired by CNN, Stone says, "Fuck the voting, let's get right to the violence." And again, he says that even if Trump was losing the election night vote count, that he should - or would - claim that he had won and then adopt the position that, "Possession is nine tenths of law. ... Sorry, over. We won. You're wrong. F--- you."

The film, titled "A Storm Foretold," has not been released.

More: Who is Roger Stone? Trump ally and Republican strategist whose clemency grant was seized

Roger Stone, an ally of former U.
Roger Stone, an ally of former U.  

Is Roger Stone hoping for another Trump pardon?

And the committee has also gathered new evidence that Stone asked Trump to pardon him shortly after the Jan. 6 attack, as federal authorities began arresting people from coast to coast in connection with the Capitol assault.

In one text exchange obtained by the committee, Stone warned a lawyer representing Trump in his second impeachment trial that there would be "mass prosecutions." Stone then allegedly asked the lawyer, David Schoen, if he could "plug" his pardon request when speaking next with the president, according to the New York Times.

The text messages were also part of the trove of evidence that the Danish filmmakers turned over to the committee, the Times said, adding that some of the material was expected to be aired in the next hearing.

"At this point I'd be happy if he pardoned me and (former New York City police commissioner Bernard) Kerik again," Stone reportedly wrote. "He's already pardoned both of us so he would take no heat for it whatsoever."

In 2019, Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and obstructing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election interference in the 2016 presidential election. Investigators focused intensively on whether Stone acted as a back-channel conduit between the Trump campaign, Russian hackers and the Wikileaks organization, which weaponized hacked emails of staffers for Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.

In July 2020, Trump commuted Stone's sentence just days before he was to report to prison to serve a 40-month sentence. Mueller himself wrote in the Washington Post that Stone was a "convicted felon" who had significant dealings with Russian intelligence officers in the run-up to the election.

Trump's executive grant of clemency for Stone reportedly was also among the documents the FBI seized in its raid of Trump's Mar-A-Lago residence in South Florida in August.

More: Is there a link between Jan. 6 suspects and Trump's inner circle? FBI's questions show hunt is still on

Was Roger Stone a conduit between Trump and right-wing extremist groups?

As part of its focus on Stone, the Jan. 6 committee may also release new details about what role he might have played in trying to foment the violence on Jan. 6, including having the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers breach the Capitol so the pro-Trump mob could get inside, according to Riggleman.

Stone was one of several top Republican operatives operating out of "war rooms" at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., along with Trump adviser Steve Bannon and attorney Rudy Giuliani, in what the committee has said was a Trump-backed effort to organize the overthrow of the presidential election and foment the Jan. 6 riot. Riggleman told USA TODAY that his investigation found all sorts of communications links that place Stone at the center of it, but that Stone fought the committee's request to turn over text and phone data that could corroborate it.

In prior testimony before the Jan. 6 committee, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed that Trump had instructed her boss, then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, to reach out to both Stone and political adviser Michael Flynn on Jan. 5, 2021. The Meadows aide said her boss was persuaded against making a personal visit to the Willard, and that he instead attended some kind of planning meeting by phone.

The committee also has been digging into Stone's potential role as a liaison between Trump supporters and the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in the run-up to Jan. 6, Riggleman said.

An image of Roger Stone on Jan.
An image of Roger Stone on Jan.  

Andy Campbell, who interviewed Stone for his just-released book, "We are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism," said those connections run deep - not just to Stone but also to other Republican operatives.

Campbell noted that top Oath Keepers members who have been charged with seditious conspiracy texted back and forth for days in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, about providing security for high-profile supporters of Trump's effort to overturn the election. That included Stone, Flynn, "Stop the Steal" leader Ali Alexander and InfoWar's Alex Jones, according to a trove of text messages entered into evidence in the criminal case.

At the time, Stone was also using his own encrypted message group, "Friends of Stone," to communicate with many of them, including Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes, Campbell said.

"These guys are all connected and helping each other out. Stone's connection to Trump is obvious," Campbell told USA TODAY.  "And with his very, very close ties to Enrique (Tarrio), that's the closest the Proud Boys have gotten to Trump and it's very close. Now is there going to be a smoking gun? I'm not sure."

More: Jan. 6 hearing to focus on Trump mob. A breakdown of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and the attack.

Roger Stone's response: All accusations against him are 'categorically false'

Stone has challenged the authenticity of the videos, saying they were manipulated and selectively edited.

Stone also declined to offer USA TODAY any explanation about how his comments might have been taken out of context or manipulated. Some of them align with other incendiary public remarks that Stone has made, including at a rally the evening of Jan. 5, 2021, attended by many of the key players under investigation by the committee and the Justice Department.

In emailed comments to USA TODAY, Stone denied any wrongdoing and declined to answer questions about what the committee might present about him in its upcoming hearing.

"Any claim assertion implication or accusation that I knew in advance about, participated in or condoned any illegal activity on January 6 at the Capitol is categorically false. Nor did I play any role whatsoever in the efforts to delay the certification of the electoral college," Stone said. "Commenting on these matters are within my free-speech rights although it is not clear that representations provided by the committee are timely, accurate, unedited or not manipulated. Previous assertions regarding me by witnesses before the committee are entirely false and without basis."

When pressed for a more detailed explanation about his connections to many of the key players in the ongoing investigation, including Trump and Proud Boys former leader Enrique Tarrio, Stone told USA TODAY, "I have nothing to add to the statement above if it regards this subject."

Last December, Stone appeared before the Jan. 6 committee behind closed doors but refused to answer questions. Instead, he told reporters afterward, he invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination in response to the committee's subpoena.

In a letter to Stone accompanying the subpoena, the committee said it wanted to talk to him in connection with its investigation into "the facts, circumstances and causes of the January 6th attack and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power."

In its Nov. 22, 2021 letter, the committee told Stone that its "investigation and public reports have revealed credible evidence of your involvement in the events within the scope of the Select Committee's inquiry."

The committee noted that Stone "was reportedly in Washington on January 5th and 6th, spoke at rallies on January 5th, and was slated to speak at the January 6th rally at the Ellipse that directly preceded the violent attack on the Capitol."

"Before traveling to Washington, Mr. Stone promoted his attendance at the rallies and solicited support to pay for security through the website stopthesteal.org," the committee said. "While in Washington, Mr. Stone reportedly used members of the Oath Keepers as personal security guards, at least one of whom has been indicted for his involvement in the attack on the Capitol."

It said Stone had also "made remarks that he was planning to 'lead a march to the Capitol' from the Ellipse rally."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why Roger Stone's role in Capitol riot may be a focus of Jan 6 hearing

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