Magazine article The Spectator

Roger Stone: Poison, Spies and Lies

Magazine article The Spectator

Roger Stone: Poison, Spies and Lies

Article excerpt

A conspiratorial lunch with Donald Trump's old friend Roger Stone

Washington DC

Roger Stone -- political consultant, agent provocateur, friend and confidant of Donald Trump -- arrives for lunch with a bodyguard in tow. 'I've had way too many death threats,' he explains. He says he's recovering from poisoning by polonium, a radioactive substance used to kill the Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London. Litvinenko, he says, had 'a much larger dose, probably done by British intelligence'. But the British government named the Russian agents responsible, I reply. 'What was the proof?' he asks. 'It's all mirrors. You know that.'

Stone blames his 'poisoning' on 'the deep state', a term that in Trumpworld means the intelligence community. Trump has taken to Twitter to accuse the deep state of tapping his phone on President Obama's orders. 'This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!' Stone has called for Obama to be 'charged, convicted and jailed'. All this adds a layer to the tangled skein labelled 'Trump and Russia'. At its heart is a simple charge: that Trump was bought or blackmailed by the Kremlin. Stone is accused of being a Russian conduit to Trump. Both men say they are victims of a conspiracy of lies by US intelligence agencies, a 'silent coup'. Stone is an icon to a mass of Trump supporters who believe this is the hidden truth behind the President's difficulties.

Stone slides into the restaurant's wood-panelled booth. He's in his sixties, white-haired, and wearing a bold pinstriped suit impeccably cut to make him look like a 1930s gangster. He lives in Florida and maintains a deep year-round tan. On that tanned flesh, beneath the crisp white shirt, right between his shoulder blades, he has, famously, a tattoo of Richard Nixon's smiling face. Stone worked for Nixon and has seen ten presidential races. He likes to quote the famed Republican political strategist Lee Atwater on how to succeed in politics, and life: 'Lay low, play dumb, and keep moving.' He adds three corollaries, Stone's rules: 'Admit nothing; deny everything; launch counterattack.' I imagine he's given this advice to Trump; he sees the President 'from time to time', he says.

'Access' is the currency of Washington and it is hard to be certain how much Stone truly has. But he has known Trump for almost 40 years and he describes their history in his new book The Making of the President 2016. At the start of this relationship, you find the thread that Trump's enemies say runs all the way to the Kremlin: money and organised crime. Stone was introduced to Trump in 1979 through Roy Cohn, the Trump family's mobbed-up lawyer. Stone writes that he went to see Cohn at his offices and found him 'wearing a silk dressing gown. His heavy-lidded eyes were bloodshot from a late night of revelry. Seated with Cohn was his client, "Fat Tony" Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family.' Some attribute Trump's early success as a New York developer to Cohn's mafia connections. They controlled the concrete. Stone tells me: 'In his defence, the same people he bought concrete from also sold it to New York state and New York City. That was the only unionised concrete in the city.'

Wayne Barrett, a legendary muckraking New York journalist, told me before he died (of natural causes) that he had found '25 to 30 mob connections' in Trump's past. Today, the allegations are about the Russian mob, rather than the Italian-American mafia. …

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