The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol trained a harsh spotlight Thursday on Roger Stone, saying the longtime adviser to then-President Donald Trump discussed a potential “Stop the Steal” plot with Trump just 10 days before the insurrection.
Stone, 70, also was linked to other elements of the broad effort to claim falsely that Trump actually won the 2020 election but had it stolen from him by supporters of Democratic challenger Joe Biden, committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren said at the panel’s ninth – and possibly last – investigative hearing.
The committee alleges that Trump conspired with a wide array of supporters in and out of government to foment a violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and block Congress from certifying Biden’s electoral victory in the 2020 election.
“In addition to his connection to President Trump,” Lofgren, D-Calif., said, “Roger Stone maintained extensive direct connections to two groups responsible for violently attacking the Capitol, the Oathkeepers and the Proud Boys.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, the House Committee took the extraordinary step of subpoenaing Trump himself, voting unanimously 9-0 to call the former president to appear before Congress to testify. It did so in part, it said, to get to the bottom of Trump’s conversations with Stone, former Trump National Security adviser Michael Flynn and other witnesses in its investigation who invoked their fifth amendment right against self-incrimination during their testimonies.
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"We must seek the testimony, under oath, of Jan. 6's central player," said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Utah, vice chairwoman of the committee. “We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion.”
Much of what the committee said about Stone’s suspected role in the events on and before Jan. 6 already followed the broad outlines of what has been reported already by USA TODAY and other media outlets.
But committee members “don't yet have all the relevant records of Roger Stone’s communications” and its investigation is ongoing, according to Lofgren, who was chosen by the panel to lay out its findings about the Trump confidant and self-described political “agent provocateur.”
More details about the alleged plot to overturn the election will be included in the committee’s final report, which it is expected to release before the end of the year.
After the hearing, Stone issued a lengthy statement to USA TODAY refuting virtually everything alleged by the committee.
"What we did see today was a continuation of the tactic of 'guilt by association,' Stone said. "Just because I know someone or have met them does not constitute proof that I was aware of any impending criminal conspiracy. The committee today provided no evidence to the contrary."
But in an interview before the hearing, former committee investigator Denver Riggleman said Stone is “connected to almost every piece of the Trump family and Trump associates and those that were on the ground and rally planners."
“It’s about the link maps, it's about the people he was in contact with,” said Riggleman, a former Republican congressman, military intelligence officer and author of the new book, “The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation into January 6th.” “The committee understands that, and that's why you see this real concentration on him, this attention on him."
Here's a look at what the committee is investigating in relation to Stone, including new details disclosed during Thursday’s hearing:
Did Stone's role in 'Stop the Steal' help launch the Capitol riot?
The committee has obtained damning video footage of Stone explaining – long before the Nov. 3, 2020 election – how the Trump team should plan to claim victory while the votes were still being counted, and then challenge anyone who contests that – with violence if necessary.
Snippets of the footage, taken by Danish filmmakers who trailed Stone on and off for several years, already have aired on CNN and were aired Thursday by the committee.
In one comment, filmed in July 2020, Stone all but lays out Trump’s “Stop the Steal” blueprint for trying to overturn the election months before voters went to the polls.
First, Trump and his supporters would insist they won the election, challenge election officials, with force if needed, and then throw the issue into the courts so that Trump-appointed judges could hand him a victory.
"That's ... basically what Bush did to Gore” in the infamous Florida recount in 2000, Stone told the filmmakers in footage aired by CNN. “We'll say, these ballots are fake. Your results are invalidated. Goodbye. That's the way it's going to have to look… It's going to be really nasty."
In another segment filmed just days before the election and aired by the committee Thursday, Stone says, “F--- the voting ...let's get right to the violence." And again, he says that even if Trump was losing the election night vote count, that he should – or would – claim that he had won and then adopt the position that, “Possession is nine-tenths of law. ... Sorry, over. We won. You're wrong. F--- you."
The film, titled "A Storm Foretold," has not been released.
On Thursday, the committee also used Stone’s social media messages to show how he discussed just such an effort with Trump himself in the run-up to Jan. 6.
“Even Stone’s own social media posts acknowledge that he spoke with Donald Trump on December 27 as preparations for January 6 were underway,” Lofgren said, as alleged replicas of Stone’s messages appeared on a giant screen behind her.
“In this post you can see how Roger Stone talked about his conversations with President Trump,” Lofgren said. “He wrote, ‘I also told the president exactly how he can appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure Donald Trump continues as our president."
Added Lofgren: “As we know by now, the idea for special counsel was not just an idle suggestion, it was something President Trump had actually tried to do earlier that month."
Asked about his potential role in fomenting violence on Jan. 6, Stone invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during his interview with the committee earlier this year.
According to video aired Thursday by the committee, Stone was asked first if he thought the violence on Jan. 6 was justified. He declined to answer. He was then asked whether he had “any role in planning for the violence on Jan. 6?”
“Once again, I will assert my Fifth Amendment right to decline to answer your question,” Stone said in the video played by the committee.
Is Roger Stone hoping for another Trump pardon?
The committee also has gathered new evidence that Stone asked Trump to pardon him shortly after the Jan. 6 attack, as federal authorities began arresting people from coast to coast in connection with the Capitol assault.
That came up barely, if at all, during Thursday’s hearing.
But in one text exchange obtained by the committee, Stone warned a lawyer representing Trump in his second impeachment trial that there would be “mass prosecutions.” Stone then allegedly asked the lawyer, David Schoen, if he could “plug” his pardon request when speaking next with the president, according to the New York Times.
The text messages were also part of the trove of evidence that the Danish filmmakers turned over to the committee, the Times said.
“At this point, I’d be happy if he pardoned me and (former New York City police commissioner Bernard) Kerik again,” Stone reportedly wrote. “He’s already pardoned both of us so he would take no heat for it whatsoever.”
In 2019, Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and obstructing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia's election interference in the 2016 presidential election. Investigators focused intensively on whether Stone acted as a back-channel conduit between the Trump campaign, Russian hackers and the Wikileaks organization, which weaponized hacked emails of staffers for Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.
In July 2020, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence just days before he was to report to prison to serve a 40-month sentence. Mueller wrote in the Washington Post that Stone was a "convicted felon" who had significant dealings with Russian intelligence officers in the run-up to the election.
Trump's executive grant of clemency for Stone reportedly was also among the documents the FBI seized in its raid of Trump's Mar-A-Lago residence in South Florida in August.
Was Stone a conduit between Trump and right-wing extremist groups?
As part of its focus on Stone, the Jan. 6 committee also released new details about what role he might have played in trying to foment the violence on Jan. 6, including having the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers breach the Capitol so the pro-Trump mob could get inside.
Stone was present at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., where Trump adviser Steve Bannon and attorney Rudy Giuliani and others were working to organize the overthrow of the presidential election and foment the Jan. 6 riot, according to committee members.
In prior testimony before the Jan. 6 committee, the committee noted Thursday, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed that Trump had instructed her boss, then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, to reach out to both Stone and political adviser Michael Flynn on Jan. 5, 2021. The Meadows aide said her boss was persuaded against making a personal visit to the Willard, and that he instead attended some kind of planning meeting by phone.
Lofgren provided no new details of that at Thursday’s hearing. But she did disclose more information about Stone's suspected links to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – and in his statement, Stone denied having anything but peripheral ties to most of them.
Leaders of both groups have been charged with the crime of seditious conspiracy, which Lofgren described as a conspiracy to use violent force against the United States and to oppose the lawful authority of the United States.
“Multiple associates of Roger Stone from both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys have been charged with this crime,” Lofgren said. “Close associates of Roger Stone, including (Oath Keeper) Joshua James, have pled guilty to this crime.”
According to Lofgren, the committee has found that at least seven Oath Keepers who have been criminally charged provided personal security for Stone, or were seen with him on Jan. 6 or in the weeks leading up to it.
James, the leader of the Alabama Oath Keepers, “provided security for Roger Stone and was with him on Jan. 5,” Lofgren said, as the committee displayed a photo of Stone and James together on the day before James entered the Capitol and assaulted a police officer.
Earlier this year, James pled guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of Congress.
Two other senior members of the Oath Keepers, Kelly and Connie Meggs, also provided security for Stone during the time Stone spent in Washington on or just before Jan. 6, Lofgren said. Kelly Meggs was the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, and both are charged with leading a military-style “stack formation” of Oath Keepers who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Perhaps even more disturbing,” Lofgren said, was Stone’s “close association” with Enrique Tario, the former national chairman of the Proud Boys. She said Stone’s relationship with Tarrio and other Proud Boys members “is well documented by video evidence (and) with phone records the select committee has obtained.”
Tario and other Proud Boys have been charged with multiple crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack, including seditious conspiracy. During the attack, Lofgren noted, Tario sent a message to other Proud Boys claiming that “We did that,” in reference to the insurrection.
“He also visited the White House on Dec. 12,” Lofgren said. “Later that day, he posted a disturbing video claiming credit for the attack. This video posted on January 6, was apparently created prior to the attack.”
Andy Campbell, who interviewed Stone for his just-released book, “We are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism,” said his connections run deep – not just to the Proud Boys but also to other Republican operatives.
Campbell noted that top Oath Keepers members who have been charged with seditious conspiracy texted back and forth for days in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, about providing security for high-profile supporters of Trump’s effort to overturn the election. That included Stone, Flynn, “Stop the Steal” leader Ali Alexander and InfoWar’s Alex Jones, according to a trove of text messages entered into evidence in the criminal case.
At the time, Stone was also using his own encrypted message group, "Friends of Stone," to communicate with many of them, including Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes, Campbell said.
“These guys are all connected and helping each other out. Stone’s connection to Trump is obvious," Campbell told USA TODAY. "And with his very, very close ties to Enrique (Tarrio), that's the closest the Proud Boys have gotten to Trump and it's very close. Now is there going to be a smoking gun? I'm not sure.”
Riggleman told USA TODAY that the committee investigation found all sorts of communications links that place Stone at the center of it, but that Stone fought the committee's request to turn over text and phone data that could corroborate it.
Stone's response: All accusations against him are 'categorically false'
In an interview with USA TODAY prior to the hearing, Stone challenged the authenticity of the videos, saying they were manipulated and selectively edited.
He also declined to offer USA TODAY any explanation about how his comments might have been taken out of context or manipulated. Some of them align with other incendiary public remarks that Stone has made, including at a rally on he evening of Jan. 5, 2021, attended by many of the key players under investigation by the committee and the Justice Department.
"Any claim assertion implication or accusation that I knew in advance about, participated in or condoned any illegal activity on January 6 at the Capitol is categorically false. Nor did I play any role whatsoever in the efforts to delay the certification of the electoral college," Stone said.
"Commenting on these matters are within my free-speech rights although it is not clear that representations provided by the committee are timely, accurate, unedited or not manipulated. Previous assertions regarding me by witnesses before the committee are entirely false and without basis."
When pressed for a more detailed explanation about his connections to many of the key players in the ongoing investigation, including Trump and Proud Boys former leader Enrique Tarrio, Stone told USA TODAY, "I have nothing to add to the statement above if it regards this subject."
In a letter to Stone accompanying the subpoena last year, the committee said it wanted to talk to him in connection with its investigation into "the facts, circumstances and causes of the January 6th attack and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power."
In its Nov. 22, 2021, letter, the committee told Stone that its "investigation and public reports have revealed credible evidence of your involvement in the events within the scope of the Select Committee's inquiry."
The committee noted that Stone "was reportedly in Washington on January 5th and 6th, spoke at rallies on January 5th, and was slated to speak at the January 6th rally at the Ellipse that directly preceded the violent attack on the Capitol."
"Before traveling to Washington, Mr. Stone promoted his attendance at the rallies and solicited support to pay for security through the website stopthesteal.org," the committee said.
It said Stone had also "made remarks that he was planning to 'lead a march to the Capitol' from the Ellipse rally." Stone denied making such remarks to USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Will Roger Stone seek another pardon from Trump? New evidence emerges