The federal agents arrived before dawn, surrounding Roger Stone’s waterfront Florida home and then pounding on his front door.
“FBI. Open the door!” the agents shouted. “FBI warrant!”
It was a moment that Stone, the cable-news flame-thrower and self-described political dirty trickster, had long predicted and even ridiculed. It nonetheless arrived with undeniable force and a touch of absurdity—captured for posterity by none other than CNN.
Rather than surrender at the courthouse in one of his flamboyant, custom-made suits, he was rousted Friday by agents wearing bulletproof vests. A neighbor, the former pro football player Chad Johnson, tweeted, “FBI arrested my neighbor Roger before my morning jog. I’ve only seen shit like that in movies, crazy to start to my Friday.”
At around the same time 1,000 miles away, federal agents appeared at the Fitzgerald, a seven-story building in Harlem, New York, where Stone has shared an apartment with Kristin Davis, the so-called Manhattan Madam who is Stone’s friend and business partner. Neighbors said the street had been blocked off as early as 6 a.m. and that agents remained in the building for almost three hours.
Stone, 66, a longtime friend of the president, appeared in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, federal court on Friday wearing dark jeans, blue polo shirt and his trademark round black glasses. His hair was slightly tousled and his hands were handcuffed in front of him.
He seemed relaxed as he answered questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow, who released him on $250,000 bail and confined his travels to Florida, New York, and the Washington, D.C., area. Stone told the judge he didn’t have a valid passport, after she asked him to surrender it.
Stone remained defiant after the hearing, saying that the charges were politically motivated and that he’d been falsely accused. He also said he wouldn’t testify against Trump.
“I am innocent,” he said outside the courthouse. “The whole Russia investigation is a distraction from the real crimes of the Clintons and Obamas.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has placed intense pressure on Stone and his inner circle during the past year, issuing subpoenas to at least seven of his employees and associates in an effort to uncover the full extent of his dealings with WikiLeaks and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Two political operatives who worked with Stone during the 2016 campaign, Jason Sullivan and Sam Nunberg, testified to a grand jury and provided documents to Mueller’s investigators, as did Jerome Corsi, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who also sought to contact WikiLeaks.
John Kakanis, Stone’s former accountant, and Davis are among the Stone associates who’ve appeared before the grand jury. Radio host Randy Credico, identified as “Person 2” in Stone’s indictment, gave extensive testimony about his role relaying messages between Stone and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder. And Stone’s former assistant Andrew Miller was held in contempt after refusing to testify before the grand jury. Miller is appealing that ruling.
Stone’s raucous career in politics is well documented, starting with his embrace of hardball political tactics as a young aide to Richard Nixon. More recently he was an informal adviser to Trump and claimed to speak with him occasionally. (He has remained devoted to Nixon and has a tattoo of the late president on his back).
In the 1980s, Stone ran a successful and notorious lobbying firm with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman who’s been convicted of charges brought by Mueller, that counted major corporations and foreign dictators as clients. A New Republic profile called Stone a “state-of-the-art political sleazeball” and accused him and other Republicans of trading on Reagan-era ideals “in order to sell their connections to the highest bidders.” In a foreword to his latest book, Stone’s Rules: How to Win at Politics, Business and Style, he wrote: “Political games are for others to play—I wage political warfare.”
Like Trump, Stone has referred to the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.” In a September post on his website, stonecoldtruth.com, he wrote, “If you believe the fake news media Mueller seeks to prove that I had advance knowledge of an alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee by ‘the Russians’ and that this alleged hack email material was then sent to Assange who then passed it on to me to pass in to my friend and client of 40 years Donald Trump. This is a damnable provable lie!”
A lawyer for Assange said the “military-style arrest” of Stone amounted to “intimidation.”
Stone is charged with attempting to undermine government investigations. Mueller says Stone served as a link between the Trump campaign and an organization that matches the description of WikiLeaks, alerting the campaign about upcoming releases of material damaging to Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
He also tried to persuade an associate to lie before a House committee investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, suggesting he pull a “Frank Pentangeli,” according to the indictment. That’s a reference to a character in The Godfather Part II who intends to testify against the Mafia but reneges, under threat, before a Senate committee.
Stone has acknowledged exchanging private Twitter messages with an account claiming to be Guccifer 2.0, a hacker persona linked to the Russian government, but has said those messages were innocuous.
His lawyer said that Stone intends to defend himself “vigorously” against the charges. That comes as no surprise. Rule No. 81 is: “Admit Nothing. Deny Everything. Launch Counterattack.”