The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump says he hasn’t spoken to Roger Stone in ‘a long time.’ Stone says otherwise.

In an April interview with the Post, Roger Stone said he still talks with President Trump. (Video: McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

President Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to defend himself against a growing onslaught after his controversial firing of FBI Director James B. Comey. But one particular defense doesn't quite add up.

CNN reported late Tuesday that longtime informal Trump adviser Roger Stone influenced his decision to fire Comey:

Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone was among those who recommended to the President that he fire Comey, according to a source familiar with the conversation. Stone, who also is being scrutinized by the FBI as part of its Russia investigation, spoke to Trump after Comey appeared at a hearing last week on Capitol Hill, according to the source.

That would be troublesome given Stone is also a person of interest in the Russia investigation — particularly in regards to his communications with the hacker Guccifer 2.0.

Trump isn't just denying this; he's denying he talked to Stone recently at all:

But that apparently would be news to Stone, who has said on multiple occasions over the past month that he remains in contact with Trump.

Here's an April 13 exchange with The Washington Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia for his must-read profile of Stone:

ROIG-FRANZIA: How often are you in contact with Doanld Trump and what are you talking about? Are you advising him on policy, politics or anything else?
STONE: We talk from time to time. We talk politics. Beyond that, I'm not going to characterize it because if I do then that indiscretion would most likely mean that those conversations would end.

And IndieWire reports that Stone repeated much the same answer as recently as April 23 — just 17 days ago — during an appearance at the world premiere for a Netflix documentary about his colorful political career.

Stone again said he and Trump spoke “from time to time.” Stone repeated: “I certainly wouldn’t divulge the content of those conversations or they would end. The president needs to be able to get advice and not have it end up on the front page of The New York Times.”

From there, it is largely a game of semantics. What does Trump mean when he says “in a long time”? A couple weeks? A couple months? More than that? And Stone isn't exactly saying that he speaks with Trump daily or even weekly.

But this isn't the first time the White House has tried to distance itself from Stone, despite Stone contradicting them. Back in March, White House press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to dismiss Stone and another Trump adviser facing questions about his ties to Russia, Carter Page, as “hangers-on.”

“Some of those names, the greatest amount of interaction that they've had is have cease-and-desist letters sent to them,” Spicer said on March 20.

In response, Stone again assured the Weekly Standard that he remained in contact with Trump.

“I prefer to communicate with the president through short pithy memos as I have for 39 years,” Stone said. “I don't bother the President with minutiae. Our conversations are private although the FBI was evidently listening to them.”

Somebody is not being truthful here. It's entirely possible it's Stone inflating his relationship with the president of the United States. Everyone wants to make it known they are close to the leader of the free world. And Stone is known for strange comments.

But Stone's relationship with Trump does date back decades, and there's no debate about that. If they're no longer in touch, it's because something changed in their relationship. That's possible.

For now, though, we have the president and someone very close to the president giving very conflicting signals about the level of their interaction. And given Stone has offered to testify before Congress, we may get some concrete details about the truth. Whether that's closer to his version or Trump's, only time will tell.