On Saturday afternoon, before participating in a panel at the New Yorker Festival, Roger Stone—impeccably dressed, as always, in a pinstriped blue suit—stopped for a piece of pizza. (Sausage.) “I’ve eaten nothing since yesterday,” he told me, mostly thanks to “pesky left-wing reporters calling me and asking me stupid questions.” He laughed. “I‘m sorry, I take that back. I don’t mean that.”
A day before, the Washington Post had published a video recording of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women during a conversation with Billy Bush, then host of NBC’s Access Hollywood. “Is he gonna drop out? How damaging is this?” Stone said, imitating a pesky left-wing reporter asking him stupid questions. “How could you tell on the day after? You can’t poll in the eye of the storm. Events have to play out and settle down before you can empirically measure them with polling that tells you what the impact is.”
The longtime Trump ally would use this same line—about the impossibility of polling in the eye of the storm—during the panel, on “President Trump: Life As We May Know It.” He also said, “He’s not running against Joan of Arc, you know,” referring to Hillary Clinton, and “Actions are more important than words.”
“[Trump] talks shit about women; Bill rapes women,” Stone elaborated. “He bites them through the lip. Source: Mike Isikoff, NBC. Roger Morris, Washington Post. And a third guy. It’s all reported, it’s out there. Hillary Clinton’s women,” either misspeaking or using ‘Clinton’ as a verb. “She bullies women. Read my book. Pretty well footnoted and sourced.”
Like any good surrogate, Stone’s modus operandi is to answer questions about his chosen candidate with questions about his candidate’s rival: Any implicitly critical question about Trump is answered with an explicitly critical question about Clinton. I asked Stone, for example, to comment on the hearing a federal judge ordered last week in a mysterious lawsuit accusing Donald Trump and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein of raping an underage girl.
“No lawyer in this case believes that’s a credible lawsuit, because they know everybody involved in Epstein. It’s a fraud! A phony! The lawyer needs to come forward, because his ass is gonna get sanctioned,” Stone said. “But if you want to talk about Epstein, the FAA records show indisputably that Bill is on the island with him.” (This is true.) “Was Hillary with him? Was she there? What were they doing there?”
Asked whether Trump would retaliate against Republican politicians who withdrew their endorsements, Stone—a veteran political operative who was a principal at former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s old consulting firm—scoffed. “I’d have to know who we’re talking about,” he said. “Jon Huntsman? His breath smells like Obama’s cock. He’s not a Republican. He’s a Huntsman. It’s all about him. He’s already undermined his party, and if he has any ideas of coming back and running for president he can put that dream to rest.”
The only question that really seemed to irk Stone was one I asked—based in part on Wayne Barrett’s book, Donald: The Deals and the Downfall—about Trump’s dealings with Mafia-controlled businesses in the 1970s and ‘80s. “Nothing Wayne Barrett reports can be taken seriously. Wayne Barrett was the single best critic of Andrew Cuomo until the Cuomo administration hired his wife. Whore! Whore! Not an honest guy. Fuck Wayne Barrett. Not a journalist—a propagandist. Liar. Liar. Liar.”