The directions to Roger Stone’s worldwide headquarters of conspiracy theories, self-promotion and Nixonian arcana are — like much about Roger Stone — confusing and mysterious.
The first version, received from Stone via text message, leads to a blanched, deserted parking lot next to a vacant building behind a chain-link fence in Oakland Park, north of Fort Lauderdale. A place called Scandals Saloon sits across the street, but it turns out Stone has sent the wrong address.
“Well, you will have to kill that lede,” says the man who knows enough about this dance with the journalistic profession to recognize what might have been a resonant detail in a first paragraph. Stone, after all, has seldom met a scandal he couldn’t curl up with and adore.
The next part of the directions to his personal office and broadcast studio calls for locating a “door discreetly marked ‘A,’ ” which might be helpful, except for the crucial fact that there is no door discreetly marked “A” at the new address next to a bathroom supplies depot. There is, however, a blacked-out door with no markings, and the man who emerges from behind it, wearing shorts, loafers with no socks, a rakishly loosened tie and an untucked white dress shirt, is unmistakably Stone.
“What happened to our ‘A’?” he calls out to his two young assistants.
Inside, Stone keeps a bong in the shape of Richard Nixon’s head and a framed drawing of a roll of toilet paper with Nixon’s face on each sheet. In the early 1970s, Stone became a master of the darker political arts, meddling surreptitiously with the Democrats, as part of Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President, nicknamed CREEP.
More than 4½ decades later, Stone still likes to think of himself as a man who operates in the shadows. “P.S.: I have no boring clients,” he tantalizingly says one evening, without naming names or explaining exactly what he does. But the darkened office of this buddy of President Donald Trump is also buzzy because the old trickster is having a very public moment.
A regular human might find it unsettling that Congress is threatening to haul him before a committee investigating possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Stone is reveling in it.
“I want to get called,” Stone, 64, says over dinner one night. “I just want a fair chance to tell my side of it.”
Stone dismisses one of his main pursuers, the former federal prosecutor and California Democratic congressman Adam B. Schiff, as being “full of Schiff.” Stone is thinking about suing Schiff for defamation, even though congressional immunity makes such legal action nearly impossible.
Schiff, in a sense, is a fantastic, accidental PR man for Stone. The congressional attention couldn’t arrive at a better time for Stone, who has a book, “The Making of the President 2016,” to hawk and who will be featured next month in a much hyped Netflix documentary, “Get Me Roger Stone.”
Stone, a prolific author who hosts a radio program and runs a website, StoneColdTruth.com, never really went away. He’s been talking nonstop for decades, pointing an accusing finger at Lyndon Johnson for alleged complicity in the Kennedy assassination, rooting around in Bill Clinton’s extramarital misdeeds, depicting the Bushes as a “crime family.” It’s just that now there are more people listening.
His studio — a man-cave-style haunt slathered floor to ceiling with Nixon memorabilia and conspiracy books — has been stocked with professional lighting and a broadcast-quality audio line by Stone’s 19-year-old grandson, Nick.
The door opens, and a woman in workout clothes strolls in with a 9-month-old Yorkshire terrier named Mimi. “Ah, Mrs. Stone!” Roger Stone says.
Mimi pulls at her leash and lets out a torrent of high-pitched yips.
“She usually only chases Russians,” Stone deadpans.
Stone met his Cuban American wife, Nydia, during one of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns, where she was working as a photographer. In a Polaroid picture taped to her computer monitor, the future married couple are slender and stylish with deep 1980s tans.
Stone can’t be bothered to reminisce. He’s got an interview coming up, but he’s not sure about the host.
“Where’s he from?” Stone calls out.
“Minnesota, I think,” John, his driver and studio assistant, says.
“I think it’s Sweden,” Stone says.
Turns out it’s neither. The program is hosted by Stefan Molyneux, an Irish-born Canadian.
“All day it’s like this. Every day,” Stone’s wife says, with a sigh and little smile. “I’ve gone deaf listening to him!”
Stone thinks Google and other big Internet firms are trying to crush his business by blocking traffic to his website, which has dropped precipitously. Still, he says, “I don’t make a million dollars. But I do okay.” He also believes he’s under surveillance by federal investigators. His evidence is a New York Times report that said he was being scrutinized for possible Russia ties and news reports about his private communications that he believes were leaked by government snoops.
On top of that, he thinks someone is trying to kill him — either with poison or via weaponized automobile after the car he was riding in was T-boned recently by a vehicle with tinted windows that sped off after the collision.
“The suspect list,” he says, “would be infinite.”
A large Buddhist shrine, known as a butsudan, is stationed in the living room at Stone’s spacious bungalow along a canal in Fort Lauderdale. Nydia — whose father was a military attache in the United States for Cuba’s Batista regime before it was toppled by Fidel Castro — hosts Buddhist gatherings there.
“I chant for Roger’s Buddha nature to emerge,” she says.
The effectiveness of those appeals is certainly open to interpretation. In his book, Stone calls Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), “a scoundrel” and “the most prolific liar ever to run for president.” He regularly engages in vituperative Twitter tirades. Stone allows that he’s been prone over the years to tweet while drinking cocktails. “Two martinis,” he says. “I’m a lightweight.”
Last year, he was banned from CNN after calling commentator Ana Navarro “an entitled diva bitch,” on Twitter. He’s also called her “fat and stupid.” In 2012, he tweeted that the liberal broadcaster Roland Martin is “a stupid negro.”
Stone says he regrets the Martin remarks and points to statements he’s made urging Republicans to do a better job of outreach to African Americans. But he doesn’t plan to let up on Navarro, a co-chair of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s Hispanic advisory council, because he thinks she is overstating her credentials as a “Republican strategist.”
Navarro did not respond to an interview request. Martin called Stone a “superficial, petulant, racist child.” The media, Martin said, tends to “say, ‘Oh, he’s a colorful character.’ No, he’s a racist, sexist individual.”
For years, Stone has maintained residences in Florida and in New York, where he rents a small place in Harlem. In Florida, the Stones used to live on South Beach, but he tired of the noise and moved north to Fort Lauderdale, where his stepson is a Broward County sheriff’s deputy. The couple share their house with two Yorkies — Mimi and Max, a 16-year-old who is blind, incontinent and nearly deaf — and an 80-year-old former pilot with cancer who is crashing in a back bedroom. Boxes fill the living room because the Stones have had some tensions with their landlord here, he says, and are in the process of moving to another rental nearby.
The house is thick with heavy art deco furniture that presents a considerable challenge for his grandson, who is loading pieces precariously into a pickup truck parked out front next to Stone’s sleek Jaguar XKR. Stone, a prodigious accumulator of things, says he has 50 winter suits and 20 summer suits, all custom made. In his home office, a dozen or so hats rest on head-shaped forms like those commonly used for wigs. He places a stiff-brimmed hat with a center crease on his head, and says, “This is an open roader.”
A similar hat was worn by the man who was escorting Lee Harvey Oswald when he was fatally shot, Stone says.
Stone worked briefly for the Trump campaign in its early days and was either fired (Trump’s version) or quit (Stone’s version), but stayed in contact as an informal adviser and energetic promoter, including connecting Trump with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars.com. When he left, Stone says, the campaign tried unsuccessfully to get him to sign a confidentiality agreement that would have prevented him from talking to reporters.
“I would have had to agree to not breathe any air,” he says.
[The alleged connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia]
The truth is reporters flock to Stone, in part, because he talks their language and because he’s dishy and quotable. He’s forever referencing his “sources,” lately focused on tantalizing inside dope about the White House.
The chaos of packing up an overstuffed household does little to distract Stone. After all, the Hollywood Reporter is on the line, asking about the documentary premiere.
“I have two tickets,” Stone says. One is for himself, he quips, and the other for “a libel lawyer.”
Between calls, Stone annotates a transcript of Schiff, the California congressman, talking at a hearing last month about hacked emails released by WikiLeaks. Stone has aroused Schiff’s attention by boasting about communicating with Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder (Stone now says it was “back-channel communication” through a journalist source). Schiff also questioned Stone’s direct-messaging with “Guccifer 2.0,” a Twitter user who a U.S. intelligence assessment concluded with “high confidence” was in league with Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU, to tamper with the U.S. presidential election.
At his desk, Stone reads aloud from the transcript.
“Schiff: Mr. Stone was in direct communication with a creature of Russian GRU, Guccifer 2.0,” Stone recites in a loud, mocking tone.
“No, I don’t concede that! Wrong!” Stone says in a booming voice as if Schiff were in the room with him. “Unsupportable. . . . It’s innocuous. Sorry guys, you cannot prove Guccifer is a Russian agent. When the intelligence services use the word ‘assessment” that means, ‘We don’t know. We’re guessing.’ ”
Stone’s been working on the annotation for days. But he keeps having to put it down. He has a book to flog.
The three dozen or so people assembled to meet Roger Stone at the Palm Beach Bookstore — a snug place on a glitzy avenue at the heart of the presidential weekend-getaway town — include a man with one leg and wearing a Make America Great Again hat who says he attended 14 Trump rallies during the campaign. Another man has arrived via motorcycle to ask Stone to prevail on President Trump to build a 90-mile automobile bridge to connect Key West and Cuba.
“You’re a tough cookie, Mr. Roger!” the man blurts out during Stone’s book talk.
Moments later, a young woman walks up and slips Stone a book to sign.
“I’m the mystery texter,” she says.
Off to the side, Billy Benson — a former Democratic political operative whose wife, Candice Cohen, owns the store — watches with amusement in seersucker pants and a bright lavender blazer that he says he picked up cheap at a secondhand store.
“We hated each other when we lived in D.C.,” Benson says of Stone. “He was doing tricks. I was doing tricks. We get along great now.”
Five young women, including the girlfriend of Stone’s driver, sidle up next to him for a photo. They’re speaking Ukrainian. “It sounds like Russian, but it’s different,” one says, before another abruptly cuts off the conversation.
After his chat, Stone explains to a few attendees that he asked his tailor to make him pants with a 2-inch waistband and wide legs because he wanted to emulate the style once worn by Cab Calloway.
Stone doesn’t have time to hang around. A cable film crew is waiting at a nearby hotel.
He’s famished when the interview finishes, but being Roger Stone is a 24-hour-a-day proposition, so he’s got the media tagging along for dinner. It’s getting late and a television reporter at the table mentions he’s got an early broadcast in the morning.
Stone pulls a black tube from his jacket pocket: Clinique for Men face bronzer. He swears by it.