Roger Stone may not be sleeping well these days. The political trickster and confidant of former President Trump is likely watching developments in the prosecution of two Oath Keepers—Joshua James and Stewart Rhodes—very carefully. On Thursday, James pled guilty to the charge of seditious conspiracy, a rarely charged crime in which the defendant is alleged to have conspired to overthrow the U.S. government or hinder its execution of any laws through the use of force. James admitted to helping lead a group that sent two equipped militia-style teams into the Capitol and organized a cache of weapons just outside the city. It was the first time any defendant from the January 6 attack on the Capitol has pled guilty to this most serious of crimes. James is cooperating with prosecutors now and will testify before a grand jury if called, and Rhodes is facing a trial on a seditious conspiracy charge later this year.
Here’s why all this matters to Stone. Recently obtained documentary footage from a Danish production company—Stone is apparently so egocentric and arrogant to have allowed his machinations and conspiratorial work actually to be filmed in real time— shows that defendant James was physically present with Stone in his room at the Willard Hotel just hours before the attack on the Capitol. And as the Post reported just this morning, after reviewing 20 hours of the documentary footage, the video showed Stone used an encrypted messaging app in January of 2021 to communicate with defendant Rhodes as well as Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio.
These connections are the first indications that people deep within Trump’s inner circle were in active communication with the violent, armed organizers and at least one now convicted seditious conspirator of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
It’s important to understand that Stone’s involvement in the Big Lie was also extensive. On Nov. 5, Stone drew up a plan called “Stop the Steal” that became the blueprint for Trump to try to hold onto power. As protesters were mobilized, the plan said, the campaign would lobby state lawmakers to reject official results, a key part of the plan to overturn the election. Stone also worked with disgraced Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn, an election conspiracy peddler and a chief proponent of Trump declaring martial law and seizing voting machines in December of 2020. In the video reviewed by the Post, Stone is seen telling Flynn they could “document an overwhelming and compelling fraud” in the swing states and urging him to amplify that message across social media. That same day, Flynn, Trump’s campaign, and Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric began using #StopTheSteal on Twitter.
Stone’s role diminished in November, with his acolyte Ali Alexander taking up the mantle of “Stop the Steal” and speaking at events around the country. But on December 23, 2020, Trump pardoned Stone for his conviction brought by Robert Mueller, and Alexander was ecstatic about being able to promote the January 6 rally with him openly.
“Roger’s fully in the fight now,” Alexander said. “Roger wasn’t allowed to be fully in the fight. We’ve taken the leash off the pit bull. So, this is something Roger and I have been planning for a long time. And, finally, he’s off the leash. So, you know, it’s a knife fight, and your two knife fighters are Ali Alexander and Roger Stone. And you either fight with us or you get slashed.”
Alexander provided testimony before the January 6 Committee on December 9, 2021 that he had spoken to at least one member of the Trump family’s inner circle and that he “had a few phone conversations” with members of Congress including Paul Gosar (R-AZ), had “potentially texted” Mo Brooks (R-AL) (famous for wearing body armor while he spoke at the rally at the Ellipse on January 6), and also spoke in person to Andy Biggs (R-AZ). All three Republican lawmakers were involved in efforts to challenge the electoral results and participated in meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill on the subject.
Stone has refused to cooperate with the January 6 Committee, taking the Fifth Amendment in response to a subpoena. But the news that James is cooperating can’t be good, as James may be able to fill in many of the gaps about what Stone was saying and doing before, during and after the riot. For around 90 minutes during the height of the violence at the Capitol, for example, Stone kicked the Danish documentary filmmakers out of his room and wouldn’t let them film what he was doing. An aide claimed he was napping, which is frankly hard to believe given the urgent circumstances. A cameraman who eventually gained access reported that Stone was on the phone. (Stone has sued the Jan. 6 Committee to attempt to block them from obtaining his phone records, and the matter is pending.)
Federal District Court Judge Amit Mehta, in denying a motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit against the president for inciting the January 6 riot, recently remarked on the nexus between Stone and the former president on the one hand and groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys on the other. “Stone’s connections to both the President and these groups in the days leading up to January 6th is a well-pleaded fact. Discovery might prove that connection to be an important one.”
In the weeks following the riot, Stone lobbied to have everyone involved in the plot to overturn the election pardoned as part of what became known as the “Stone Plan.” But the scheme was thwarted by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, according to Stone’s comments in the film. “Clearly, Cipollone fucked everybody,” Stone said on January 19, 2021, the day before the end of the Trump presidency, to a friend who was himself serving time for fraud.
“See you in prison,” he later texted to another Trump associate that evening.
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