Roger Stone: The renegade political operative and Trump advisor who revels in 'dirty tricks'

Tim Wyatt

Roger Stone, who was on Friday arrested by the FBI as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation, has long been a colourful figure in the frenetic world of Washington politics.

A veteran Republican political consultant and strategist, Mr Stone’s career began in the early 1970s when he worked on the campaign to re-elect Richard Nixon as president, later to be become infamous during the Watergate scandal.

It was during this period he first began indulging in “dirty tricks”, in his own words – underhand and secret tactics to smear and hamper political rivals.

The most famous of these was when the then 19-year-old made a donation in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to a Republican who was challenging Nixon for the Republican nomination. He then leaked the receipts to a local newspaper to damage the rival.

But unlike others in Washington, as the Connecticut-born operative rose through the ranks in right-wing politics he made no secret of his predilection for no-holds-barred political skulduggery.

Ten years ago he told journalists his two mottoes were: “Attack, attack, attack – never defend” and “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”.

While remaining loyal to the disgraced Nixon, into the 1980s Mr Stone moved into lobbying and became highly successful during the Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush eras.

It was here he joined forces with Paul Manafort to jointly run the firm Black, Manafort, & Stone, which represented in Washington everyone from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to the tobacco industry, as well as brutal Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and an up-and-coming New York property tycoon called Donald Trump.

Mr Manafort would go on to be Mr Trump’s presidential campaign manager, before also becoming ensnared in the special counsel’s investigation and convicted on eight charges of tax and bank fraud last year.

Although he was well-connected with the Republican establishment, Mr Stone was widely seen as an eccentric and unreliable outsider within the conservative movement.

He happily admitted to the New Yorker in a profile that he had no interest in Christian social conservatism and also confessed that a scandal which had ended his role in Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign for president was all true.

Mr Stone had been forced to resign after it emerged he and his wife had run personal ads in a swingers’ magazine looking for “exceptional muscular single men” to party with.

At the time he had vociferously claimed his innocence, but a decade later casually conceded the accusations were true and said: “I’m not guilty of hypocrisy. I’m a libertarian and a libertine.”

He first began working with Mr Trump in the late 1990s, when he advised the businessman who was considering running for president with the small Reform Party.

He flirted with more fringe libertarian movements and repeatedly was caught up in more sex scandals and accusations of dirty tricks through the noughties.

But it was when he attached himself to Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign that he returned to mainstream headlines and pugnacious appearances on cable TV.

Acting as a senior adviser to the candidate, Mr Stone was so aggressive and abusive in his interventions – once calling a fellow commentator a “stupid, fat negro” – he was banned from appearing on both CNN and MSNBC.

As well repeatedly floating false conspiracy theories – claiming, for instance, that a senior Hillary Clinton aide was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood – he also revelled in the release of damaging hacked emails about Ms Clinton and the Democrats by Wikileaks.

Now, however, the Mueller inquiry believes it has evidence to show he did more than cheerlead the attacks. The indictment accuses Mr Stone of lying to both Congress and the FBI about his role and contacts with Wikileaks over the hacked emails.

He has previously denied any wrongdoing and echoed Mr Trump in calling the investigation a witchhunt.