- George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Stone’s name came up frequently during Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, used his opening statement to note Stone’s communications with hacker Guccifer 2.0 and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, suggesting Stone knew in advance about leaks that were damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In decades as a Republican operative, Stone has embraced his reputation as a provocateur and dirty trickster. But with the FBI investigating potential links between Trump associates and the Russians to influence the election, Stone on Tuesday emphatically denied any suggestion he colluded with the Russians.
“This was a Kafkaesque experience watching the House Intelligence Committee, watching Adam Schiff engaging in demagoguery, red-baiting, fearmongering. This is the new McCarthyism. If you’re not for nuclear war with the Russians over Syria then you must be a traitor,” Stone said at a dinner sponsored by a conservative group called America First to promote his book “The Making of the President 2016.”
About 50 people paid $65 apiece to attend the event at the Boca Raton Marriott.
“I am of course no stranger to the world of hardball politics,” Stone said. “But treason — treason is a step too far. That is what the House Democrats have accused me of. If they have any sense of decency, any sense of fair play, I will be afforded the opportunity to answer the charges.”
Added Stone: “The idea that there was Russian influence to tip this election to Donald Trump is a bald-faced, blatant lie.”
Stone has acknowledged “banal” and “innocuous” contacts via Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the entity that claimed credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee computer system. U.S. intelligence has branded Guccifer 2.0 a front for Russian hackers, which Stone said he doesn’t necessarily believe.
But Stone said his only contacts with Guccifer 2.0 came in August, long after the June hacking of the DNC.
“The problem with this storyline is my only communication with said hacker is six weeks after those documents have already been hacked and published. In other words, the only way I could have colluded was if I had a time machine, and as far as I know Comrade Putin has not yet perfected his time machine,” Stone said.
Stone made a similar argument during an early Tuesday appearance on “CBS This Morning.”
“The inference that my now completely public exchange with a hacker — Gruccifer (sic) 2.0, who may or may not be a Russian agent — somehow constitutes collusion is not true based either on the facts, on the actual texts which I have released or on the timing,” Stone said.
Stone said last year that he had “back-channel” communications with Assange, the Wikileaks founder. On Aug. 21, Stone tweeted that Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta would soon face “time in the barrel.” On Oct. 7, Wikileaks began releasing hacked Podesta emails.
Stone said Tuesday the “time in the barrel” tweet was a reference to Podesta’s business dealings.
He told CBS he didn’t have advance knowledge of Wikileaks’ release of Podesta’s emails, but was not surprised by it either.
Stone has known Trump for decades and began encouraging him to run for president in the 1980s. He did not have an official role with Trump’s campaign after August 2015, when he departed after a power struggle with Corey Lewandowski, the Trump campaign manager at the time. But Stone remained an active and visible Trump supporter throughout the 2016 campaign.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday described Stone as “somebody the president has known for a long time. He worked briefly on the campaign I think until about August of 2015, from recollection. They have talked from time to time but I don’t think any time recently. But they had a long relationship going back years where he would provide counsel. And again, he played a role early on in his campaign but ended that role in August of 2015. And I don’t know at all when the last time they even spoke was.”
Stone has hired two lawyers and has said he’s eager to testify before Congress to clear his name.
“Let me have my day in court,” Stone said on CBS.