By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
There’s a high-profile South Florida name that’s been largely absent amid the legal maneuverings of the House Select Committee that’s investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Roger Stone, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, is a longtime confidant to former President Donald Trump. He was among several leading supporters of efforts to undermine the 2020 presidential election results who gathered at the Willard Hotel, two blocks from the White House, on the days surrounding the attack.
Stone has told reporters he had “no advance knowledge of the riot at the Capitol” and “played no role whatsoever in the Jan. 6 events.” Yet video broadcast by ABC News shows Stone on the morning of Jan. 6 outside the Willard mixing with supporters and flanked by members of the Oath Keepers militia group who reportedly provided security for him.
It’s clear that Stone is what police might call “a person of interest” for the committee. We know that because its Sept. 23 subpoena to Steve Bannon, the White House’s early chief strategist under Trump, asks for his documents and testimony about “his presence, purpose, statements and activities at a meeting with Members of Congress at the Willard Hotel on January 5, 2021, or the presence, purpose, statements or activities of others in attendance related to that meeting.”
So far, Bannon isn’t playing ball. But when he didn’t appear as ordered on Oct. 14, the nine- member committee voted unanimously to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress. Two days later, the House voted 229-202 and referred him to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.
Stone, who would seem to have knowledge of what went on in Bannon’s “war room” at the Willard, “has not been requested or subpoenaed to appear or provide evidence,” according to his Fort Lauderdale attorney, Robert Buschel. Stone did not respond to a request for an interview.
WILL ROGER STONE BE SUBPOENAED?
Why hasn’t Stone been subpoenaed? Will he be? On Friday, Florida Bulldog asked the committee’s press office and a spokesman for committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS). They did not respond.
The Jan. 6 committee’s report about Bannon’s contempt, released Oct. 18, mentions Stone twice, including once in a footnote with a link to a Nov. 14 CNN story titled “Stop the Steal’s massive disinformation campaign connected to Roger Stone.”
Here’s what the committee directly says about Stone: “The group that assembled at the Willard Hotel is reported to have included members of the Trump campaign’s legal team (including Rudolph Giuliani and John Eastman), several prominent proponents of false election fraud claims that had been promoted by Mr. Trump (e.g., Russell Ramsland, Jr. and Boris Epshteyn), as well as Roger Stone, who left the hotel with Oath Keepers bodyguards, and campaign spokesman Jason Miller.
“It has been reported that the participants in the meetings at the Willard Hotel discussed plans to stop or delay the January 6th counting of the election results and persuade Members of Congress to block the electoral count,” the report says.
The report goes on to cite Bannon’s inflammatory statements in a podcast the day before the attack and says his association with Trump’s ‘‘inner circle’’ as well as outside Stop the Steal groups “make his testimony about the Willard Hotel meetings essential to fully understanding and establishing responsibility for the events of January 6th.” The report adds that Bannon also “reportedly spoke directly to Trump on one or more occasions regarding what could or should happen on January 6th.”
Here’s what Bannon had to say on his Jan. 5th podcast: “It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen. OK, it’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is, strap in…You made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day. Let’s get ready. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow…So many people said, ‘Man, if I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.’ Well, this is your time in history.”
BANNON CAVED BEFORE
Despite such tough talk, Stone could be worried that Bannon, faced with possible jail time, may flip and decide to testify. Stone saw firsthand that Bannon has caved before when subpoenaed. In November 2019, Bannon provided damaging testimony against Stone at Stone’s trial on charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to the House Intelligence Committee as it investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In fact, according to a Reuters story, Bannon acknowledged to reporters outside the courthouse that he sang like a bird – to the grand jury in the case, to Congress and to investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Stone was convicted on all seven counts and sentenced to 40 months in prison. In July 2020, days before Stone was to begin serving his sentence, Trump commuted his sentence. Five months later, Trump tossed in a full pardon, nullifying Stone’s conviction.
Trump also pardoned Bannon shortly before leaving office on Jan. 20, 2021. Bannon was arrested in August 2020 on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his involvement in a private fundraising campaign to build Trump’s border wall opposite Mexico. Bannon pleaded not guilty in the scheme in which he allegedly siphoned off more than $1 million in donations for his personal use. The case never got to trial, but state authorities in New York and New Jersey have said they are looking into the matter.
Meanwhile, Stone has other pressing legal problems. In federal court in Washington, seven U.S. Capitol police officers sued Trump, Stone, the far-right Proud Boys and more than a dozen others last August, accusing them of conspiring to use violence to stop Congress on Jan. 6 from confirming Joe Biden’s Electoral College win.
Worse, perhaps, is last week’s reactivation of the IRS’s lawsuit claiming that Stone and his wife, Nydia, owe nearly $2 million in unpaid back taxes, interest and penalties. The suit contends the couple used a front company called Drake Ventures “to shield their personal income from enforced collection and fund a lavish lifestyle.”
Stone told the Washington Post last April that the case was “politically-motivated.”
The case is before Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Judge Rodolfo Ruiz.