Roger Stone Pins His Hopes on Appeal -- or Trump's Mercy
He wanted to look good for his day in court, and that meant a blue suit made by British tailor Richard James, a blue double-cuffed dress shirt with a Windsor collar, George Cleverley shoes, a blue silk knit tie, and a checked pocket square (also blue).
Then, for whatever reason, he made note that beneath it all he was wearing boxers “by Charvet of Paris.” Ahead of his 2019 arraignment, Roger Stone reminded a reporter from the conservative Daily Caller that he’s always adhered to the old adage “the clothes make the man.”
He appeared, by most accounts, impeccable. His later sentence, by all accounts, was ugly.
It was recommended that he serve seven to nine years in prison for lying to Congress, a penalty later reduced to 40 months after the intervention of the Department of Justice. Stone, the longtime friend of -- and the former adviser to and the first presidential campaign manager for -- Donald Trump, does not want to go. He told me late Wednesday afternoon, while speaking under home confinement from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that the only stripes he can stand “are pinstripes.”
But prison-issued jumpsuits, usually drab orange and not up to his standards, are not what worries him about federal penitentiary. Stone is 67 years old. He has a history of asthma, an underlying condition that, when combined with his age, place him at greater risk for the coronavirus (there are other health problems, ones that he said would not be polite to discuss on the record).
“We're in the middle of a pandemic,” he explained. “Sending me to prison, while Michael Avenatti and Michael Cohen and Rick Gates are sent to home confinement, is manifestly unfair. In my case, since I'm older than all of them and evidently not as healthy, you know, this is a very real danger.”
Stone has asked that he stay out of prison stripes until at least Sept. 3 while he appeals his conviction. He was set to start his sentence yesterday but asked a federal judge for a two-month extension. The Justice Department didn’t oppose that request, giving him a little more time to argue in the legal system and the press.
In an April interview with Myra Adams, an acquaintance from Republican politics, Stone stressed his renewed Christian faith. Listening to Stone on the first day of July -- as prison becomes a nearer possibility – more of the old Roger Stone shines through. It’s a more secular version, although there is certainly an element of grace implied by Stone’s observation that his “final chapter is not yet written.”
From Richard Nixon to Trump, the press has chronicled his infighting, his hard-edged politics, his so-called dark arts of political persuasion. But the man who rigged his own election for class president in high school and who later made devious political donations to political rivals on behalf of the Young Socialist Alliance of America in an effort to smear them now talks earnestly about justice and equal treatment under the law.
His trial? Well, that was a hatchet job by a jury basically selected from “the Clinton and Obama administrations’ alumni association.” His wrongs, past and present, recorded by the press? Well, those are slanderous stories written by “a pack of jackals.” His treatment by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein? Well, that man is a liar who “perjured himself before Congress” when he said that he didn’t authorize the investigation into the Republican operative “three months after they knew there was no Russian collusion.”
Stone insists that he did not receive a fair trial and he was hung out to dry by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and that he will soon be “a political prisoner.” That is, if Trump does not intervene first. The White House wouldn’t comment when asked by RealClearPolitics, but the president has made his thoughts clear on how the criminal justice system is treating his old friend.
“Roger Stone has been treated very unfairly. How about that jury forewoman, does anybody think that was fair,” Trump tweeted. “DISGRACEFUL!” he added, before insisting that everyone “stay tuned.”
But all of that was in May, and Trump hasn’t said anything since. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, meanwhile, denied Stone a retrial, ruling that the aforementioned forewoman, who shared posts on social media critical of the president, had considered evidence against him fairly and that the assumption that she was biased “is not supported by any facts or data and it is contrary to controlling legal precedent.” But before that, when others turned on him, the president praised Stone for refusing to testify. In December of 2018, he tweeted, “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”
What happens next? If loyalty is reciprocal, shouldn’t the president, who praised the gastrointestinal fortitude of his old political aide, give a little grace? “I have no answer to that question,” Stone replied wistfully, “I have no idea.”
“I mean, look, perhaps, he also has confidence in the appeal system, but I have to live long enough for my appeal to be heard,” Stone added. If he should die in prison from the respiratory disease sweeping its way across the globe, “my appeal dies with me.”
“I guess if I had to make an appeal, it would be that on humanitarian grounds, as an act of mercy, as well as of justice, I would pray that the president use his incredible powers of clemency,” he said.
Stone does not sound worried though, let alone afraid. He says his livelihood had been ruined by litigation, sure. His name dragged through the mud, absolutely. But the man with the Nixon tattoo believes he isn’t done. The political operative has a final pitch: Keep me out of prison, and I will help Trump win again.
Stone argued as much to Lou Dobbs on Fox News and repeated the same to RealClearPolitics, stressing, all the while, that he doesn’t want a gig with the campaign. He wants a free hand to make mischief all on his own. It is what made him Roger Stone in the first place.
“There are a lot of independent things that I would like to do because I really think the 2020 election is going to be very close and very competitive,” he told RCP. “I also believe that there's no question that the president not only can win, but will win. Frankly I'm nauseated by the sunshine soldiers in the Republican Party who are wringing their hands in defeat this far out from an election.”
The playbill of the Trump era hasn’t been printed because the show isn’t quite over, even as the curtain threatens to drop. Maybe Stone was a bit player who didn’t actually get the president elected and who can’t do much to get him elected again. But he pushed himself into the spotlight so many times that he couldn’t be ignored.
Will the president, who pardoned Rod Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois, the guy who tried to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, really leave one of his own behind? Stone does not know. For once the dapper political disrupter does not care about his wardrobe. He might go to prison. If he goes, he says he will have some time to write:
“I've written half a book on my current experience. The problem, of course, is that the book — I still don't know the ending of the book, so I can't finish it.”
The president could help provide the ending, but for the time being – and with the clock ticking – Trump is remaining uncharacteristically silent.