Roger Stone, the roguish political operative with longstanding ties to President Donald Trump, told POLITICO on Wednesday that he’s convinced the Justice Department obtained a secret court order to monitor his communications as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Stone, a flamboyant Watergate figure with a reputation for dirty tricks and a penchant for conspiracy theories, did not provide new evidence for his claim that the Obama administration obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to investigate him as a possible foreign agent. But he said the recent release of his private correspondence with a hacker tied to the infiltration of the Democratic National Committee could only have been orchestrated by a U.S. government agency, and he threatened to sue former President Barack Obama and anyone involved.
It’s rather unorthodox for a presidential ally to proclaim that he’s the subject of a wide-ranging federal investigation into a presidential campaign. But Stone, who has been promoting his latest book, has a reputation for stark unorthodoxy. In any case, he says that he’s never had any intentional communications with any Russian agents, and that any investigation of his activities would simply prove that the Obama administration conducted politically motivated surveillance of Trump’s operation.
“My civil liberties have been violated for purely political reasons,” Stone said in an interview. “We saw that in Watergate, and a lot of people went to jail for it.”
Stone should know; he worked for former President Richard Nixon’s infamous Committee to Re-Elect the President in the Watergate era. But he said he has nothing to hide, and he has offered to testify before congressional intelligence committees. He also said that he has not yet been subpoenaed by Congress or interviewed by the FBI. Stone did communicate with Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who has claimed responsibility for the infiltration of the DNC’s emails, but he said their discussions were innocuous and entirely after the hack was complete.
But Stone believes that a New York Times report in January was correct when it suggested that he was under investigation along with former Trump adviser Carter Page and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is also Stone’s former business partner. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the FBI obtained a secret surveillance warrant for Page, and there has been extensive reporting on Manafort’s connections to Russian-backed groups in Ukraine. But Stone said that he’s never even spoken on the phone to anyone in Russia, and that the FBI will find nothing incriminating in his emails, texts or private messages.
“They’ll find a lot of funky s— in there, but I’ll tell you one thing they won’t find: Any contact with the Russians,” Stone said.
Democrats have cast Stone as a likely conduit between Trump’s campaign and Russian hackers seeking to sway the election to Trump. But while Stone has claimed to have “communicated with” Julian Assange, the founder of the hacked-document clearinghouse WikiLeaks, a spokesman for the organization denied Stone’s claim.
Even the central claim against Stone — that he had inside knowledge of the theft of damaging emails from the Gmail account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta — is circumstantial.
It’s based on a tweet from Stone before WikiLeaks began disseminating Podesta’s emails — “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel” — that Stone subsequently explained referred to previously published material.
Stone has also made a succession of unverified claims about the Russian hacking.
He has alleged he was poisoned in December by the “deep state” — a conspiratorial term adopted by Trump allies to refer to rogue intelligence operatives allegedly seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency — to prevent him from debunking claims that Russia deployed hackers to boost Trump. And he suggested that a hit-and-run crash involving a vehicle in which he claimed to be a passenger could have been linked to the hacking scandal.
The Russia probe, nonetheless, has been a major headache for the Trump administration. But Stone spun the potential investigation into his own activities as bad news for Obama rather than Trump. He suggested that the Justice Department is desperate to find evidence of nefarious activities by the Trump campaign in order to justify its surveillance of Trump operatives—and that Trump’s bombing of Russia’s ally Syria is evidence that the investigators are going to come up empty.
“The wind has been knocked out of that sail,” Stone said. “If Donald Trump is in bed with Putin, why did he just kick him in the balls? It destroys the whole narrative.”