How Roger Stone Tried to Muddy the Waters of the Russia Investigation

This article first appeared on Just Security.

Dissecting Roger Stone’s statement was a very different exercise than my prior dissections of statements by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Michael Cohen.

Stone’s statement is a strident piece of political rhetoric meant to politicize his interview, attack members of Congress on the committee, and distract from problematic activities he engaged in throughout the election.

It is unclear to me why Stone’s lawyers are permitting him to continue to make aggressive, wide-ranging assertions about his activity. Nonetheless, there is a method to what appears to be “madness.”

If you put aside Stone’s distractions and political attacks, his factual assertions are carefully written to exclude things that perhaps he cannot deny.

Take a look below and read between the lines.

GettyImages-686971844 Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to Donald Trump, speaks during a visit to the Women's Republican Club of Miami, Federated before signing copies of his book 'The Making of the President 2016' at the John Martin's Irish Pub and Restaurant on May 22, 2017 in Coral Gables, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty


September 25, 2017

Good morning Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, Committee members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and staff. My name is Roger J. Stone, Jr., and with me today are my counsel, Grant Smith and Robert Buschel.

I am most interested in correcting a number of falsehoods, misstatements, and misimpressions regarding allegations of collusion between Donald Trump, Trump associates, The Trump Campaign and the Russian state [1].

I view this as a political proceeding because a number of members of this Committee have made irresponsible, indisputably, and provably false statements in order to create the impression of collusion with the Russian state without any evidence that would hold up in a US court of law or the court of public opinion.

[1] Essentially, he is using this statement to talk about subjects that he hasn’t been asked by the committee to talk about. It’s a strategy that is meant to distract from the issues that the committee is focused on and to politicize the hearing.

I am no stranger to the slash and burn aspect of American politics today. I recognize that because of my long reputation and experience as a partisan warrior [2], I am a suitable scapegoat for those who would seek to persuade the public that there were wicked, international transgressions in the 2016 presidential election. I have a long history in this business: I strategize, I proselytize, I consult, I electioneer, I write, I advocate, and I prognosticate. I’m a New York Times bestselling author, I have a syndicated radio show and a weekly column, and I report for at 5 o’clock eastern every day.

While some may label me a dirty trickster, the members of this Committee could not point to any tactic that is outside the accepted norms of what political strategists and consultants do today [3].  I do not engage in any illegal activities[4] on behalf of my clients or the causes in which I support [5]. There is one “trick” that is not in my bag and that is treason [6].

[2] This is a strategy by Stone to own his outrageous and controversial personality.

[3] It would be more accurate to say that one purpose of the interview is to determine whether Stone has done anything outside accepted norms.

[4] We do not know what Stone considers illegal, and it may be different from what Robert Mueller and a trial court would consider illegal.

[5] This blanket denial doesn’t mean much—what matters is what specific allegations he makes and what allegations he refuses to deny.

[6] This is also so vague that it’s nearly meaningless because Stone could believe that receiving aid from Russia is not “treason.” (For what it’s worth, “treason” is defined very narrowly as a legal matter.)

As someone whose political activism was born from the anti-communism of Senator Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan; and whose freedom seeking family members were mowed-down by Russian tanks on the streets of Budapest in 1956, I deeply resent any allegation that I would collude with the oppressive Russian state to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election [7].

[7] This is a non-denial—he just “resents” allegations—and it’s worth noting what he doesn’t “deny.” He doesn’t deny colluding with Russian individuals or other foreign entities.  He doesn’t deny colluding with the Russian state to do things that wouldn’t affect the outcome of the election.  And of course it’s unclear what it means to “collude,” given that the vague term has no legal meaning whatsoever.

My colleague, Michael Caputo, voluntarily sat in this seat a couple of months ago, gave what I believe were candid and truthful answers to those who cared to sit in on the interview; and yet, when he was done, he was accused of perjury by a member who did not even have the pretention to show up for his interview. He was eviscerated by some Committee members and consequently, the press [8].  

The most unfair aspect of this turn of events, and behavior by some Committee members, is that this Committee refuses, to this day, to release the transcripts of his testimony for the world to read and judge for themselves[9].

[8] This is another irrelevant distraction meant to politicize his interview. Also a person does not need to be present during testimony to conclude that a witness was guilty of perjury.

[9] One reason that the committee interviews witnesses in private is so other witnesses don’t know what they said.

Multiple members of this Committee have made false allegations against me in public session in order to ensure that these bogus charges received maximum media coverage. Now however, you deny me the opportunity to respond to these charges in the same open forum [10]. This is cowardice. Fortunately, we will have the opportunity today to take the exact words of some members of this Committee and examine them in order to uncover the lies.

[10] Again, this is not an unusual practice when the committee does not want future witnesses to know what prior witnesses said, which could give those future witnesses an opportunity to shape their testimony accordingly. Moreover, Stone obviously can say whatever he wants publicly and he is doing so through this statement, which shows that he has the ability to defend himself in a public forum.

Members of this Committee as well as some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee aren’t alone in their irresponsibility. On January 20, 2017, the New York Times reported that the intelligence services were in possession of emails, records of financial transactions and transcripts of telephone intercepts, which proved [11] that Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page colluded with the Russians for the benefit of Donald Trump.

So, where are these records ? Can this Committee or our intelligence agencies produce them? I didn’t think so [12].

[11] He appears to be referring to this January 19, 2017 story, which speaks only about “possible links to Russia.”

[12] Just because they won’t produce them doesn’t mean that they can’t. Stone should be aware that intelligence services like the CIA or NSA cannot release classified information that would reveal intelligence sources or methods.

Nor, is this irresponsibility entirely partisan. Sen. John McCain told CNN that I “…should be compelled to appear before the Senate to explain my ties to Yanukovych and the Russians.” This is very simple, Senator the answer is: “None” and “None.”

In fact, I worked against Yanukovych’s party in the 2006 parliamentary elections in Ukraine, and have no ties to any Russians [13].

[13] Stone’s statement that he has “no ties to any Russians” could mean something, but what does it mean to be “tied” to a Russian?  Stone could have had a transaction or conversations with a Russian and still deny being “tied” to the Russia.

Given this Committee’s consistent refusal to allow me to testify in a public session, in the interest of compromise, I have repeatedly requested that the transcript of my testimony here today, be released immediately upon conclusion of today’s session. Even this constructive suggestion has been rejected. What is it you fear? Why do you oppose transparency? What is it you don’t want the public to know? [14]

[14] As discussed above, there are very good and fairly common reasons why the committee might want the interview to remain secret for now. This paragraph is a way for Stone to question the legitimacy of the investigation.

I can assure each of you, I will not let myself be a punching bag for people with ill intentions or political motives. Understand, I will expose the truth in every forum and on every platform available to me [15].

[15] This appears to be a veiled threat that he will expose the closed interview on some other forum.

As a 40- year friend and advisor of Donald Trump, I had continually urged him to run for the presidency, beginning in 1988. When he decided in 2015 to become a serious candidate against a weak slate of opponents, I became one of the Trump campaign’s first consultants, reprising a role I played in 2012 when Donald Trump briefly considered a candidacy in that election.

I performed consulting work for the campaign for five months and the consulting relationship ended in August 2015 [16]. I, however, didn’t go quietly into the night, I continued to work, write, and advocate on behalf of his candidacy because to this day, I believe he has the potential to be a truly transformative president and to make our nation great again.

[16] This is one of the few firm assertions thus far that could be either proven or disproven with other evidence. That said, it is unclear what he means by ending the consulting relationship, since it is widely reported and he has claimed he regularly advises and consults the president.

These hearings are largely based on a yet unproven allegation that the Russian state is responsible for the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta and the transfer of that information to WikiLeaks. No member of this Committee or intelligence agency can prove this assertion. Because the DNC steadfastly refused to allow the FBI to examine their computer servers, this entire claim is based on a self-serving report by CloudStrike, a forensic IT company retained by, directed, and paid for by the DNC [17].

[17] The U.S. Intelligence Community, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA all concluded with “high confidence” that Russia was behind the DNC hack and that Russia relayed the material to WikiLeaks.

The Nation magazine recently reported on a study issued by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which is comprised of numerous former high-level US intelligence officials. Based upon the VIPS study, The Nation concluded that, “There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5, 2016… not by the Russians and not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak- a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data storage device [18].

In short, they reported it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the alleged initial “hack,” that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.”

Additionally, these unproven allegations have led to a frivolous lawsuit filed by former Obama administration lawyers against me and the Trump campaign. In my motion to dismiss, I submitted a sworn declaration of Dr. Virgil Griffith, a cognitive computer graduate from the California Institute of Technology, who questioned the unproven assumptions [19] that Russian hackers are responsible for theft of DNC emails and other data.

[18] It’s odd that Stone denies the findings of the US Intelligence Community (including the FBI, CIA, and NSA) that Russia was behind the hack, based solely on a report from The Nation magazine and this statement by the VIPS group.  The intelligence agencies across both the Obama and Trump administrations have uniformly reached the same conclusion. His willingness to go after their conclusion suggests that he has a motive to do so (for example, having to do with his communications with Guccifer 2.0, who was responsible for the hack).

[19] The reason Stone can say that the findings of the US Intelligence Community are “unproven” is because they have not revealed their intelligence sources and methods, and he knows that they will not do so.

I recognize that those who believe that there was collusion between the Trump camp and the Russian state, now say Stone, “must have” been involved, but that is not based on one shred of evidence. This is nothing more than conjecture, supposition, projection, allegation, and coincidence, none of it proven by evidence or fact.

I understand the Committee’s interest in me, I use all clauses of the 1st Amendment to achieve my goals, I am out there, I am provocative and partisan, but let’s be clear, I have no involvement in the alleged activities that are within the publicly stated scope of this Committee’s investigation – collusion with the Russian state to affect the outcome of the 2016 election [20].

I have every right to express my views in the public square. I actively participate in matters of great public concern. I also believe, and you should too, my friend, Tucker Carlson, who said last week, ‘You should never accept, uncritically, the imprecise conclusions of ….the “intel community.’’ [21]

[20] It’s interesting that Stone once again only makes a very narrow denial.  He denies only “collusion with the Russian state”—not collusion with Russian individuals.  He also only denies colluding with the Russian state to “affect the outcome of the 2016 election,” and does not deny colluding with Russia on other matters. He is also potentially leaving open the possibility that he colluded with Russian individuals that he could try to plausibly claim were not representing the Russian government.

[21] This statement finally makes the point that was underneath the surface of his prior comments—he is disputing the findings of the U.S. intelligence community and asks you, the reader, to disregard them.

The mantra-like repetition of the claim by our vaunted intelligence agencies that the “Russians” colluded with the Trump campaign to affect the 2016 election, does not make it so.

These are, after all, the same entities who insisted the North Koreans would not be able to launch a viable rocket for 3-5 years, that insisted Saddam Hussein was in possession of WMD, that there was no torture at Abu Ghraib prison, and that the government had no bulk data collection program, until Edward Snowden revealed otherwise[22].

Our intelligence agencies have been politicized. I realize they are deeply unhappy over President Trump’s refusal to expand the proxy war in Syria and their failure to obtain the no-fly zone promised to them by Hillary Clinton, which would be an open invitation for World War III. That the intelligence agencies have continued to leak, to the detriment of President Trump, in violation of the law, is proof positive of their politicization.

[22] It is fair for Stone to point out that our intelligence agencies make mistakes.

Members of this Committee have made three basic assertions against me which must be rebutted here today. The charge that I knew in advance about, and predicted, the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email, that I had advanced knowledge of the source or actual content of the WikiLeaks disclosures regarding Hillary Clinton or that, my now public exchange with a persona that our intelligence agencies claim, but cannot prove, is a Russian asset, is anything but innocuous and are entirely false.

Again, such assertions are conjecture, supposition, projection, and allegations but none of them are facts. For example, Mr. Schiff, the ranking member of this Committee asked, “Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be a victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that is private emails would be exposed?”

I want to know where I predicted this. Can Mr. Schiff read us the exact quote and source from where I predicted the hacking or Mr. Podesta’s email? Can Mr. Schiff even come up with a documented quote where I use Podesta and email in the same sentence – – before it happened? [23]

[23] Stone is being deliberately deceptive in this passage. This CNN report is a useful breakdown of his statements regarding the hacking and release of emails on Wikileaks. As early as August 8th and 12th, Stone bragged that he communicated with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and knew Assange would release emails from Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. His statement that he didn’t use “Podesta” and “email” together, while true, sidesteps the many statements he made suggesting his connection to Assange and his knowledge of stolen material that would be released by Wikileaks.

On August 21, 2016: Stone tweeted : “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel . #CrookedHillary.” In the week before WikiLeaks released Podesta’s email, Stone tweeted that he was confident that “my hero Julian Assange” would soon “educate the American people” (Oct. 3), and “Payload coming” with the hashtag “Lockthemup” (Oct. 5). Prior to the Wikileaks’ release, Stone told Alex Jones, “I’m assured the motherlode is coming Wednesday.” He was off by two days.

What’s more, Stone has effectively admitted in an interview that his statements in October saying something significant was about to drop were, indeed, references to the Podesta emails . The Daily Caller reported : “Stone told TheDC that the release was actually delayed by Assange.‘I was led to believe that there would be a major release on a previous Wednesday,’ Stone said.” Note that Stone has repeatedly said before that he had “ no advance notice about the hacking of Mr. Podesta.” But he does not say he had no advance notice about the release of Podesta’s hacked emails.

My Tweet of August 21, 2016, in which I said, “Trust me, it will soon be the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary” Must be examined in context. I posted this at a time that my boyhood friend and colleague, Paul Manafort, had just resigned from the Trump campaign over allegations regarding his business activities in Ukraine. I thought it manifestly unfair that John Podesta not be held to the same standard [24].

Note, that my Tweet of August 21, 2016, makes no mention, whatsoever, of Mr. Podesta’s email, but does accurately predict that the Podesta brothers’ business activities in Russia with the oligarchs around Putin, their uranium deal, their bank deal, and their Gazprom deal, would come under public scrutiny. Podesta’s activities were later reported by media outlets as diverse as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

My extensive knowledge of the Podesta brothers’ business dealings in Russia was based on The Panama Papers, which were released in early 2016, which revealed that the Podesta brothers had extensive business dealings in Russia.

The Tweet is also based on a comprehensive, early August opposition research briefing provided to me by investigative journalist, Dr. Jerome Corsi, which I then asked him to memorialize in a memo that he sent me on August 31st, all of which was culled from public records.

There was no need to have John Podesta’s email to learn that he and his presidential candidate were in bed with the clique around Putin. In fact,, a news organization funded by the Annenberg Foundation, reported, “There is nothing in the public record so far that proves Stone, a political operative and longtime Trump associate, predicted the Podesta email hack.”

[24] This tweet can be connected with Stone’s many public statements about WikiLeaks to suggest that he knew of the hacking of Podesta’s email. (See prior comment). Stone’s point that the tweet didn’t mention hacking and thus could have been about Podesta’s business activities seems like a stretch, given his other comments about emails. It’s worth noting that the tweet was only 75 characters more, so he could have been more specific if he wanted to be.

Now, let me address the charge that I had advance knowledge of the timing, content and source of the WikiLeaks disclosures from the DNC. On June 12, 2016, WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange, announced that he was in possession of Clinton DNC emails.

I learned this by reading it on Twitter. I asked a journalist who I knew had interviewed Assange to independently confirm this report, and he subsequently did. This journalist assured me that WikiLeaks would release this information in October and continued to assure me of this throughout the balance of August and all of September.

This information proved to be correct. I have referred publicly to this journalist as an, “intermediary”, “go-between” and “mutual friend.” All of these monikers are equally true.

In the March 20th public session of this Committee, Mr. Schiff asked former FBI Director Comey, “Are you aware that Mr. Stone also stated publicly that he was in direct communication with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks?”

The way the question was asked was clearly designed to cast me in a bad light. I have never said or written that I had any direct communication with Julian Assange and have always clarified in numerous interviews and speeches that my communication with WikiLeaks was through the aforementioned journalist. Again, Mr. Schiff is guilty of a false assertion [25].

[25] According to a video recording of Stone’s speech, Stone made the statement that he “actually communicated with Julian Assange” during this speech to a local Republican Party group in Florida on August 8, 2016.

The fact is that during the March 20th Comey hearing and many times subsequent, members of this Committee, and even Democratic nominee for president, felt that they could go into the public square and make similar charges without any substantiation or basis in fact.

Congressman Heck of Washington, stated, for example, “… we’ve heard about quite a few individuals in the Trump orbit who fell somewhere on that spectrum from mere naïveté, disturbing enough if this naïveté is a feature of those (who) were supposed to be running our country and foreign policy, to unwitting Russian dupes, to willing blindness, to active coordination. This rogues gallery includes those already fired- Roger Stone, adviser to Donald Trump…”

This is the worst sort of neo-McCarthyism. To be clear, I have never represented any Russian clients, have never been to Russia, and never had any communication with any Russians or individuals fronting for Russians, in connection with the 2016 presidential election[26].

[26] This is by far the most meaningful assertion in Stone’s statement. Read literally Stone is denying that he communicated with any Russian in connection with the 2016 election. (Of course, as you will see below, he denies that hacker Guccifer 2.0 is Russian, which our intelligence services have confirmed to be true.)

It is also worth noting the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia used WikiLeaks to disseminate stolen emails and that “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet RT … actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.” Stone does not deny working with WikiLeaks.

To pile on, in an interview on MSNBC on May 19, 2017, Congresswoman Speier felt compelled to say: “I believe that Michael Caputo is part of this cabal including Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, and others who had business relationships with Russia.”

No, I do not have and I’ve never had any relationship with Russia or any Russian entity. You have falsely accused me without any evidence – you should apologize today.

One more apology I would demand in public, if she were here today, is from presidential runner-up, Hillary Clinton. Following the lead of the minority members of this Committee, in her new fiction book, she repeats the same false narratives about me as if they were the truth…they could not be further from the truth.

And then there is Congressmen Eric Swalwell who, as reported in Newsmax, said, “From Roger Stone, we hope to learn the same things we learned from Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Don [Trump] Jr., and others who were particularly active in their dealings with Russians during the summer of 2016.”

Has Mr. Swalwell read my exchange with the Twitter persona which he alleges constitutes collusion? The exchange is innocuous at best. Since I had no other contact with Russians, what could he be referring to? [27]

[27] Perhaps Congressman Swalwell was referring to the intelligence that the New York Times cited in its January 2017 story, linked above.

Finally, let me address this limited, benign, and now entirely public exchange with a persona on Twitter calling themselves Guccifer 2.0 [28][29]. While some in the intelligence community have claimed that Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian cutout and that it is responsible for the hacking of the DNC servers, neither of these assertions can be proven by this Committee or the aforementioned intelligence community.

I wrote an article for Breitbart on August 5, 2016, in which I express my view that Guccifer 2.0 was not a Russian asset, at the same time reporting their claim taking credit for hacking the DNC. My only exchange with Guccifer 2.0 would begin on August 14, 2016, after my article appeared, and ran through September 9, 2016 [30].

[28] One question that I’ve personally asked Stone is why he thought it was a good idea to communicate with Guccifer 2.0.  The committee should ask the same question.  At the time, Stone knew that Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be the DNC hacker.  Why was he eager to communicate with a criminal? He should have reported these private exchanges to law enforcement. In one exchange, Guccifer 2.0 wrote, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me.” After establishing direct contact with stone, Guccifer 2.0 sent to Florida GOP operative Aaron Nevins 2.5 gigabytes of data from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Nevins posted some of that data on his anonymous Florida politics blog. The final reported DM from Guccifer 2.0 to Stone is a link to the DCCC data on Nevin’s anonymous site, and Guccifer 2.0 asking Stone what he thought about it.

[29] Also, notice what Stone does not say in this first sentence. He repeats terms like those he has used before. For example, he has told the media that the exchange was “brief,” but he does not repeat the term “banal,” which he previously used to describe the exchange. In speaking to congress perhaps stone knows better than to describe these exchanges with a criminal as banal. Stone also does not repeat statements he made to two media outlets that first covered the story in March 2017, when he told them that he did not recall and had forgotten about the direct message exchanges with Guccifer 2.0. His memory appears to have gotten better with time.

[30] This is an important assertion.  Assuming “exchange” refers to any communication, Stone is denying any communication outside of this period.  This assertion does not necessarily mean that the communications with Guccifer 2.0 attached to this statement represented all of his communications with Guccifer 2.0. It merely means that there were no communications outside of this time period.

Imagine my deep disappointment when Mr. Schiff purposefully conflated these dates before this Committee, reversing them to create the false impression that I had communicated with Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter prior to publication of the article questioning whether Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian cut-out. Shame on you Mr. Schiff.

Now that more information is in the public domain, the very question of whether Guccifer 2.0 hacked the DNC must be revisited in light of the VIPS report cited by The Nation.

As they concluded, “Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source – claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.”

I am left to conclude that the President is right when he calls this Congressional investigation a, “witch-hunt.”

Based on what we know now, it is clear that there was a foreign nation which was colluding with a presidential campaign in an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Therefore, I strongly urge this Committee to investigate the numerous, publicly documented contacts between Ukraine and the Clinton campaign, particularly in light of recent public reports that Ukraine is now providing sophisticated missile technology to North Korea[31].

[31] This is an attempt to deflect blame from himself by accusing another person, which is a common tactic by individuals who are under investigation.

Please do not continue to perpetuate falsehoods here today.

Renato Mariotti was formerly a federal prosecutor in the Securities and Commodities Fraud Section of the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois. During his nine years at the U.S. Attorney's Office, Renato tried more than a dozen criminal trials and prosecuted a wide array of white-collar crimes, including commodities and securities fraud, spoofing, cybercrime, bank fraud, investor fraud, health care fraud, mortgage fraud, tax evasion and Internet pharmaceutical sales.

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