The world is having a Roger Stone moment. I know this because Stone tells me so. “We live in the age of Stone,” he says, in the lobby of SiriusXM’s midtown New York office building. He repeats the line in an Uber uptown to his Harlem apartment and once more while he slurps down a martini.
It’s a moment for sure. What kind of moment depends on whom you ask. The right-wing political consultant and lobbyist has been instrumental in the rise of Donald Trump. The two met during Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, and Stone would go on to advise the New York real estate mogul—formally and informally—on his casino deals and during Trump’s failed run for president in 2000.
Still, it’s been an on-again-off-again relationship, with Trump relying on Stone one minute and turning on him the next. In pot-calling-the-kettle-black fashion, Trump said in a 2008 New Yorker profile: Roger is always “taking credit for things he never did.” Trump ultimately fired Stone during the 2016 campaign. The statement of explanation at the time: “[Stone] has had a number of articles about him recently and Mr. Trump wants to keep the focus of the campaign on how to Make America Great Again.” Stone says he quit.
One dubious distinction he can certainly take credit for: pioneering the art of influence peddling, back in the ’80s, when he and Paul Manafort co-founded the lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. The headline for a 1985 New Republic cover story on Stone says it all: “State-of-the-Art Washington Sleazeball.”
A new generation discovered him via the lively 2017 Netflix documentary Get Me Roger Stone , which captured the dark genius of branding in all his reprehensible glory. Among other things, he has a portrait of Richard Nixon tattooed to his back. (Once called one of Nixon’s “dirty tricksters,” Stone says he did nothing illegal during Watergate.) In May, he released his sixth book, Stone’s Rules: How to Win at Politics, Business, and Style —and, really, why not capitalize on all his new fans and foes? The 140 rules include advice like “Don’t hide your scars, they make you who you are…but don’t fight the last war, either,” and “Never ride in a white limousine.” Stone is equally serious about both.
The bigger news, of course, is that Stone is now bracing for an indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller. Of particular interest is his alleged relationship with the Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0, who stole emails from the Democratic National Committee. But even as the investigation homes in on him—Mueller has begun interviewing his close associates (like former social media guru Jason Sullivan)—Stone is resolute about one thing: He won’t flip on Trump.