Chatting With a Very Relaxed Roger Stone, on the Eve of His House Russia-Probe Testimony

Roger Stone in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, Roger Stone will rise at his Airbnb and have what he describes as the “mousy brown” natural color of his hair obscured at the roots with bleach by his longtime colorist, a woman named Jackie, whom he calls “a genius.”

He’ll dress himself in a double-breasted nailhead blue suit, a blue shirt, and what he predicted would be “some kind of somber blue tie.” Typically prone to top hats and other flashy ornaments, this will be a deliberately understated look. “I elected not to go with one of my gangster suits,” he explained.

After getting ready, he’ll travel to Capitol Hill, where he’ll participate in a demonstration with “Blacks for Trump.” And from there, he’ll walk over to his 9 a.m. appointment: testifying before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s potential influence on the 2016 presidential election (it’s all bullshit, he says).

The last time he testified before Congress was in 1973, when, at 19 years old, he was called before the Senate Watergate Committee. “It was only a hundred years ago,” he laughed. Now, close to half that exaggerated time later, he remains a looming figure on the periphery of the latest great political scandal/existential threat to a presidency.

“No, I don’t get nervous. Never,” he told me in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington on the eve of his testimony, though at brief intervals his far-off look appeared to betray those words before he snapped back to his entertaining self. He’d wanted to address the committee publicly, of course, as he intends to explain in his prepared opening statement, which was distributed to the media on Monday evening. (WikiLeaks posted the statement hours later, describing it as “leaked.”) Stone will deride the decision to force his testimony behind closed doors as a display of “cowardice.” He’ll also condemn members of the Intelligence Committee itself — particularly Congressman Adam Schiff, a vocal Democrat — and U.S. intelligence agencies, which he’ll brand “politicized.” He’ll treat with skepticism their findings that Russia attempted to interfere with the election: Just because the intelligence community repeats this, “mantra-like,” he plans to say, “does not make it so.”

Federal investigators will question Stone about his connection to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who aided Donald Trump by publishing the emails hacked from the personal account of John Podesta, the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign. In August 2016, Stone, answering a question from the audience at an event, said, “I actually have communicated with Assange.” Asked about that Monday night, he said, “What I said was I’ve had communications with WikiLeaks, and then I clarified: through an intermediary, through a journalist.” This person, he said, is “called a source. You have sources. I have sources. No, I’m not gonna tell you his name. The communication is off the record. It was on a background basis. I’m not gonna burn this guy because some congressional dipshits think I should.”

He was drinking a martini in the Trump hotel’s ornate lobby around 9 p.m. “Vodka martini — but not Russian,” he joked.

Roger Stone in his element at the Trump Hotel bar.

He prefers Tito’s, but mostly he prefers anything over gin. “One time I was going out with this girl who I really wanted to make it work with and we got very drunk on gin-and-tonics,” he explained. “And we both got so sick that nothing happened. Nothing happened! So I can’t even smell gin now without getting nauseous.”

He’d eaten the olives from the glass while posing for selfies by the bar with college Republicans, far-right activists, and members of sympathetic media outlets who view his distinction as the Godfather of Ratfucking — ratfucking being the term coined by Donald Segretti, Richard Nixon’s campaign strategist, to describe political dirty tricks — not as an insult but as a badge of honor. Elsewhere, in the more liberal enclaves in this town, of course, Stone is regarded as evil incarnate due to any number of sins (he founded an anti–Hillary Clinton group in 2008 with the acronym CUNT, for starters), but here, he’s the ultimate survivor. “I’m locked and loaded,” he told me. “I’ve done nothing illegal. I haven’t broken any laws. I mean, look, they may attempt to lay perjury traps for me — but I’m not gonna walk into them. Tomorrow is really easy: All I have to do is show up and tell the truth.”

Stone, who owned a D.C. lobbying firm with Paul Manafort in the 1980s, has known Trump for decades (they were both close to Roy Cohn, Senator Joe McCarthy’s legal counsel), and in the years leading up to his presidential campaign, Stone was his central political adviser.

He maintains he’s not worried about the outcome of the investigation for himself, but admits that it may be trickier for Manafort to get out unscathed. “Mueller will cook up some phony indictment against Manafort. Money laundering, tax evasion, some bullshit. And then he’ll say, Manafort: We’re gonna send you to jail but we won’t prosecute you. All we need you to do is lie and say that you were colluding with the Russians and Trump knew everything. He’s not gonna do that. He’s just not gonna do that.” He spoke to Manafort “a couple days ago,” he said, and he sounded “surprisingly good.”

After leaving the campaign in late summer 2015 — he claimed he quit; Trump said he fired him — Stone remained a presence on social media and on antiestablishment TV, radio, and internet shows, like Infowars, hosted by Alex Jones, where he’s a frequent guest and host. Together, he and Jones paraded around the Republican National Convention in shirts featuring Bill Clinton’s face with the caption, “RAPIST.”

Like most members of Trump’s inner circle, Stone never truly left the president’s Rolodex. They speak now, “from time to time,” he told me, but “I’m not gonna characterize it beyond that. It’s sporadic, but it’s not infrequent.” He claimed they had spoken “recently,” but he wouldn’t specify when. “I mean, let’s be candid: If I talk about this, the phone calls will end, and I’m not interested in that.”

He believes the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, “has attempted to put the president in a cocoon” but, “I don’t have to worry about reaching the president, because fortunately the president reaches me.” He added, “I look at the president as if, like, he is the good king who is now being held captive by the bad guys.”

Asked if anyone remains in the White House whom he likes, he mockingly stroked his chin for a moment. “I like Kellyanne [Conway]. There’s one. Well, I liked [Sebastian] Gorka — he’s gone. I liked Bannon, I just argued that he wasn’t effective. He didn’t fight him on anything. Look, I’m not against Steve Bannon. I like Steve Bannon.” But what about all the recent close-up shots of Bannon he keeps posting on social media with negative reviews of, among other things, his facial hair and skin? He does that, he said, “Because he says stupid things!”

Stone speculated that for all of the problems, which he’s not certain the president will overcome, “He’s probably relieved that the chaos that existed in the [Reince] Priebus era is over and that his day is probably a bit more relaxed and more orderly.”

One of Stone’s polite lawyers approached to inform him that he had to get going to his next appointment — dinner with Tucker Carlson at the Prime Rib.

As for the events a few hours after that, he said, “I’d like to get this over with so I can get back to defeating Jeff Sessions in his insane quest to make marijuana illegal in the 29 states that have legalized it.”

A Chat With Roger Stone, on the Eve of His Russia Testimony