Washington – Roger Stone, a political consultant, lobbyist and strategist known for his “dirty tricks,” is one of several Connecticut natives who played an important role in Donald Trump’s election.
Born in Norwalk, Stone, 64, is a close friend of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chief. Both men cut their political teeth by working on campaigns in Connecticut in the 1970s and joined forces to create one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington – Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly.
Stone dismisses as “nonsense” a recent New York Times story that said intelligence agencies are investigating him, Manafort and Trump’s former campaign chairman Carter Page for alleged ties to the Kremlin.
An on-and-off adviser to Trump for about 30 years, Stone has written a book that is about to be released called “The Making of the President, 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated A Revolution.”
It provides a unique look at some of the behind-the-scenes turmoil in the campaign and how Trump was able to cobble together a winning coalition by using social media and tapping into the anger of “forgotten” Americans.
The book also contains some eyebrow-raising narratives, including one that said Hillary Clinton suffered from serious illnesses, including perhaps brain damage from a concussion she suffered in 2012.
During the campaign, Stone pushed a story about a young Arkansas man named Danney Williams, saying he is the illegitimate son of former President Clinton and a black prostitute, and sold tee shirts with the word “RAPE” under Clinton’s visage.
Stone also launched a campaign aimed at preventing states from sending delegates who supported other GOP candidates to the national Republican convention as Trump delegates because these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” could shift allegiances and threaten Trump’s nomination.
The Connecticut Mirror recently interviewed Stone. “I’m happy to talk to anyone from Connecticut,” he said.
CTMIRROR: How did you get into politics?
STONE: I was living in New Canaan and the woman who lived next to us was a very active Republican. She was an ardent Goldwaterite.
Prior to that, there was some politics in my family. My parents were avid Trump Republicans, but before I got involved in politics, as Catholics, they were for John Kennedy. But basically they were an apolitical family; they didn’t pay attention until the week before the election. But the lady next door gave me a book, “The Conscience of a Conservative” by Barry Goldwater, and I suppose that’s what galvanized me. I knew immediately this was the business I wanted to be in.
I was 12 years old. Previously I wanted to be an actor. That’s what they say, “Politics is show business for ugly people.”
CTMIRROR: How close were you to the campaign?
STONE: I spoke to the campaign not at all. I was involved in independent efforts, perfectly legal and fully documented. I wanted to avoid the appearance of collusion. You can’t coordinate activities… .if I spoke to Steve Bannon on the phone it would be on a different subject… I just couldn’t communicate on anything pertaining to what that we were doing. There were things that obviously needed to be done, like the Danney Williams project, like the great tee-shirt project, that were grassroots. They just happened and they were beneficial.
CTMIRROR: You and your longtime friend Paul Manafort have caused a stir recently…..
STONE: The New York Times, with this page one story claiming that there have intercepts of communications between Russia and the Trump campaign and financial transactions. This is, as far as I know, nonsense. There’s nothing to investigate, and I think Manafort has said the same thing. I don’t know what they are doing.
CTMIRROR: One thing that struck me about your book is that you realized that there were a lot of people “under the radar”… who were, for example, following Alex Jones (notorious, among other things, for denying that the Newtown shootings happened.)
STONE: Two things happened simultaneously. The monopoly grip of the mainstream media was broken. People are now getting their information from a broader, and more robust, selection of sources, a technological shift to the hand-held device, and the Internet means that most people are getting their information from their hand-held device.
So you’re beyond the cable-channel network monopoly. In the earliest of times three networks had the monopoly. If they said something didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. With the advent of cable, the monopoly just got larger. Now people are getting their information from alternative sources. That shift came when more than 50 percent of the people were getting their information in other places than the mainstream media. And when Trump would win these online polls, and Trump seems to control Twitter as far as his numbers, there was a tendency to discount that… but he always ran ahead of the polls.
CTMIRROR: You wrote about Alex Jones in particular, that he had a huge network of people following him…
STONE: Here’s what people don’t know about Jones, putting aside his politics for one second. The genius of taking 150 radio stations, most of them in very large markets, and simulcasting once a day a video presentation online…the radio audience alone is 2.5 million people. Now if you go to the people who watch him online on his site and you combine it with people who watch him on You Tube… you are in the last week of the election reaching 18, 19 million people a day. Only he can do it. He reaches the people who vote in Republican primaries, he reaches the people who are the activists who knock on doors…
CTMIRROR: You write about Paul Manafort as the person who pulled the campaign out of trouble in the primaries. But why do you think Manafort left the campaign?
STONE: Democrats fastened on this Russian meme, part and parcel of that was a relentless attack on Manafort’s businesses in Eastern Europe. And Manafort to me is a victim of a mugging in a New York Times piece that accuses him in some ledger in a [Ukranian pro-Russian] party clubhouse that showed that he got a payment of $12.5 million…and that Manafort may have lobbied on behalf of the party, which makes no sense. In fact the party had a paid lobbyist in Washington… but the whole Russian meme took off.
That story would not go away, and I think Donald was concerned and Manafort did what Corey [Lewandosky] should have done when he was accused of grabbing that girl and put the candidate first. That’s what a pro does.
Manafort remains on excellent terms with the president. Manafort remains on excellent terms with Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] and Ivanka [Trump]. Manafort remains on excellent terms with everybody involved. Frankly I think he’s very involved behind the scenes with helping get a government in place.
CTMIRROR: How often do you speak to the president?
STONE: From time to time, I can reach him, but I don’t abuse it. He’s upbeat and friendly. He’s very optimistic.
CTMIRROR: How does the Women’s March play out in this crucial time for Trump?
STONE: I didn’t see it so much as a protest as a march. Women have legitimate issues that they’re concerned about, and President Trump wants to take note of their concerns and their large numbers and move on.
I think there were a lot of sincere women at the march. These people are not all radicals, and they don’t all hate Donald Trump. Then there are the [George] Soros types and you have many, many nasty anti-Trump signs and anti-Trump posters…Soros politicized what was a really legitimate march for many of these women.
CTMIRROR: What advice would you give Donald Trump?
STONE: Don’t succumb to the siren song of the establishment types, who will try to slow down or defeat your agenda. Stick to your agenda and you could be one of the most successful presidents this country ever had.
CTMIRROR: Do you mean the establishment Republicans?
STONE: Yeah, well I mean you’re in the process of forming a government and you have all these supplicants, who want jobs and favors, coming to you and they say, “Oh, Mr. President, I was for you the whole time. I want to be X.” Pretty soon you’ve appointed someone to X who doesn’t share your views in that area. Your government becomes infected with people who aren’t Trumpites but are party people.
CTMIRROR: Can he shake up the Republican Party?
STONE: He can, he really can. If he delivers on jobs and does really innovative stuff, if he rebuilds the infrastructure, he can be a transformational president.