One of the most controversial and outspoken figures associated with President Trump is coming to The Villages.
Former political adviser Roger Stone, who is under indictment as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential election, will speak to members of Villagers for Trump at the group’s April 1 meeting. The gathering, which also will include remarks from Trump’s 2016 ground campaign manager, Sid Bowdidge, begins at 7 p.m. at Lake Miona Recreation Center.
Stone, 66, who has been described as a political “trickster” and is somewhat infamous for his use of opposition research, was taken from his Miami home in shackles in January and charged with obstruction of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and is awaiting a Nov. 5 trial where he could face up to 50 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.
Stone, who also has worked on campaigns for Republicans Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Bob Dole, left the Trump campaign in August 2015. A stout loyalist who encouraged Trump to run for president as far back as the late 1990s, he has been accused of communicating with a Russian hacker and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in relation to leaked emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.
After his longtime friend’s arrest, Trump angrily tweeted: “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better.”
Stone is known as a “character” in Washington, D.C. circles who enjoys being in the limelight. In fact, Trump’s campaign claimed he was fired for hogging the spotlight but Stone called that “bull” and insisted that he quit, thereby “firing Trump.”
In February, Stone found himself in trouble with the federal judge handling his trial, Amy Berman Jackson, after he posted an Instagram message showing a picture with a target-like image behind her that suggested she was part of a “legal trickery Deep State.” Stone, who is under a strict gag order, claimed the post was misunderstood and was actually an attempt to raise money for his legal defense fund, which hit $100,000 in donations from supporters earlier this month.
Stone drew the ire of Jackson a second time recently when his attorneys were ordered to explain why they failed to tell her about the imminent publication of a book that could violate his gag order by potentially criticizing her or prosecutors connected with Mueller’s probe. Jackson already had expressed frustration with Stone and she said she had “serious doubts” about whether he’d “learned any lesson at all.” And she warned Stone that she would order him to jail for future violations.
Stone also has declined to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee’s request for documents in its investigation into the Trump administration, citing his Fifth Amendment rights. His attorney cited the indictment on charges by Mueller as reason not to comply.
“As a current criminal defendant, with the presumption of innocence guaranteed to him, it is not in Mr. Stone’s best interest to participate in any additional proceedings, outside those in federal court, until the charges are resolved,” attorney Grant Smith wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.
On Friday after Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr, Fox News host Tucker Carlson called for President Trump to pardon Stone. The highly popular-yet-controversial TV personality, who drew a huge crowd at his October book signing at Barnes & Noble in Lake Sumter Landing, pointed out that not “a single American citizen” has been charged with anything related to Russian collusion.
“Roger Stone is facing life in prison,” Carlson said. “He was indicted by an investigation designed to find collusion – indicted on minor charges. He was dragged from his own home in a morning FBI raid… Where is Roger Stone’s pardon? His pardon from the president. Let’s hope it comes very soon.”
On Saturday, David Gee, founder of Villagers for Trump, said the group is excited about the opportunity to hear from Stone, even though he remains under a gag order relating to his personal issues.
“He is still free to give us an overview of his understanding of how the Trump investigation originated, and by whom, and his thoughts on the (Mueller) report,” Gee said.