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Inside Story: Behind Trump’s Breakup With Consultant Roger Stone

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Inside Story: Behind Trump’s Breakup With Consultant Roger Stone


The tumultuous split between Roger Stone and Donald Trump – allied since their introduction more than 30 years ago by the late and legendary right-wing attorney Roy Cohn – erupted from internal divisions that have troubled the real estate mogul’s presidential campaign almost from the beginning, according to knowledgeable sources. Among the figures who may seek to fill the strategic vacuum left by Stone’s abrupt departure is none other than David Bossie, who runs the Citizens United Foundation and has long been associated with disreputable figures on the Republican right.

Stone’s very public resignation followed the Fox News Republican primary debate and Trump’s subsequent sparring with moderator Megyn Kelly. He complained on CNN that when the Fox anchor raised his past misogynist remarks during the debate, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes…Blood coming out of her wherever.” Interpreted as a reference to menstruation, which Trump later denied, those words provoked a powerful backlash from across the political spectrum, leading to an angry argument between him and Stone over the debate results and aftermath.

On Saturday morning, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tweeted an interview with Trump saying that he had fired Stone, whom he disparaged as a “publicity seeker.” Stone tweeted back: “Sorry @realDonaldTrump didn’t fire me—I fired Trump. Disagree with diversion to food fight with @megynkelly away [from] core issue messages.” The provocative political consultant and “dirty trickster” quickly produced a letter of resignation that he had sent to Trump, lamenting the end of their long personal and professional relationship, while noting that “current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message … I can no longer remain involved in your campaign.” Friends of Stone confirmed to reporters that he had discussed resigning from the campaign even before the Fox debate.

Behind the media histrionics and dueling Twitter messages, however, were intrigues that sources trace to the hostility between Stone and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, an ambitious former Capitol Hill staffer and employee of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ political operation.

On August 2, Lewandowski arranged the firing of Sam Nunberg, a Stone protégé bounced from the campaign after an anonymous informant sent an email about racist posts on Nunberg’s Facebook page, including a 2007 post mocking the daughter of Rev. Al Sharpton, to the political editor of Business Insider. Under Stone’s direction, Nunberg had almost singlehandedly prepared all of the Trump campaign’s position papers, talking points, and written materials.

But Lewandowski clashed frequently with the volatile, obsessive, wonkish Nunberg and apparently appreciated neither his abilities nor his efforts. When asked about Nunberg, Lewandowski called him “a short-term consultant,” telling CNN that the campaign would “investigate” Nunberg to determine whether he had written the racist posts; and if so, he would be terminated.

Then, despite a personal promise from Trump to Nunberg that he could resign quietly to preserve his career, Lewandowski made sure that the campaign publicly announced his dismissal. It was a gratuitous bit of nastiness that infuriated Stone, who told friends he suspected Lewandowksi’s hand in the exposure of Nunberg’s inflammatory Facebook post.

So Stone had developed a low opinion of Lewandowski well before the Fox debate, telling friends that “due diligence” ought to have precluded Trump from hiring the campaign manager. Lewandowski has no previous presidential-level experience but his résumé undeniably does include stints with former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who went to prison in 2006 after pleading guilty to corruption charges in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), who lost his seat in 2002 after angering fellow Republican senators and GOP leaders in his home state. In fact, Lewandowski managed Smith’s embarrassing, doomed campaign.

To those who know Stone, whose experience in national politics dates back to the 1968 Nixon campaign, his irritation at being overruled by someone of such lowly political stature was understandable. The Trump campaign, as he saw it, had become dominated by mediocre climbers who would never speak honestly to the casino mogul.

The Bossie connection also troubled Stone, according to the same sources. Trump had hired Lewandowski after meeting him at a New Hampshire event for Republican presidential hopefuls sponsored by Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity, where Bossie reportedly recommended the 40-year-old operative to Trump. Stone may suspect that Bossie – a disreputable GOP operative who runs profitable email response campaigns — might have designs on the tens of thousands of valuable names and email addresses of conservatives who have contributed money on the Trump website. In only two days, tens of thousands had signed up for a “matching campaign,” making donations that the Manhattan developer promised to double.

Stone’s frustration grew, sources say, because his attempts to influence Trump’s direction and strategy went largely ignored. Instead, he found himself on the defensive internally against adversaries who wanted both him and Nunberg ousted. The worst offense that any consultant or staffer could commit, from Trump’s perspective, was to seek publicity for himself or herself. When Vox published a profile of Stone in late July – without a single quote from him – the piece somehow landed on Trump’s desk and sent him into a rage. Meanwhile, both Lewandowski and campaign press secretary Hope Hicks, a 26-year-old former assistant to Ivanka Trump, were profiled in Politico and the Washington Post Style section, respectively – with no repercussions for either of them.

Campaign intrigues aside, Stone put himself at risk by arguing candidly with Trump instead of flattering him. While sources say that Stone’s advice wasn’t infallible – he wrongly predicted, for instance, that Trump would get little traction without traditional polling and television advertising – he was certainly correct to say that the candidate should have ignored Megyn Kelly after the Fox debate. And if Trump intends to brandish a credible third-party threat, the only figure in his campaign with any relevant competence was Stone, who helped put Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson on the 2012 presidential ballot in 48 states.

Yet the toxic tide of anti-immigrant, xenophobic acrimony that has carried Trump this far may take him further still, even without his old friend and confidant. In a “scientifically weighted” online survey released by NBC on Sunday, he is still leading the Republican race with 23 percent, essentially unchanged from his previous level of support – even though he also topped the list of biggest “losers” of the debate among Republican voters.

Photo: Roger Stone via Facebook.

Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers. Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003). Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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  1. Dominick Vila August 9, 2015

    The fallout between Donald Trump and Roger Stone was almost inevitable. Both are ambitious, ruthless, egomaniacs who care only about what is best for them. Stone is a legendary political strategist. Trump is a shoot from the hip cowboy with a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. I suspect that Stone analyzed what was going on and determined that the Trump phenomena is going to evaporate as quickly as it rose, and he doesn’t want to be part of that debacle. The only question, at this point, is whose campaign is he going to join? I would not be surprised if it is Kasich’s. The rest are in for the entertainment, diversion, olr running for the Nr. 2 spot (especially Fiorina).

    1. The lucky one August 10, 2015

      The main difference between Trump and Stone is that Stone actually is very intelligent while Trump just keeps saying he is.

      1. FireBaron August 10, 2015

        That’s because Trump has hired people to keep telling him how intelligent he is. They, realizing how stupid he actually is, are more than happy to take his money.

        1. The lucky one August 10, 2015

          Absolutely. If you work for Trump anything less than enthusiastic support for his opinions is a mistake.

    2. FireBaron August 10, 2015

      Stone’s downfall was definitely due to Trump’s refusal to allow anyone but “yes men” to offer him “advice”. Stone tried to offer the truth with his advice. THE DONALD only wanted affirmation of his personal beliefs. Thus the split. Unfortunately, the Side Show Barker is still going strong.

  2. 1standlastword August 9, 2015

    American politics these days…what a sewer over populated with sewer rats poising as public servants–them along with their poop shoveling operatives!!!!

    Disgusting! Have to wonder what a ballot might get you nowadays!!

    1. The lucky one August 10, 2015

      A ballot and a couple bucks gets you a cup of coffee.

    2. anothertoothpick August 10, 2015

      There is NOBODY more disgusting that Roy Cohn.

      1. The lucky one August 10, 2015

        How about Darth Cheney?

  3. Eleanore Whitaker August 10, 2015

    The Donald, in case some of you missed it, is replaying “Goldfinger.” He believes that his index finger is all he needs to point, delegate and it all turns top gold for him.

    1. whodatbob August 10, 2015

      You got that right!

  4. Duke Woolworth August 10, 2015

    Do you really care? I sure don’t.

  5. TZToronto August 10, 2015

    “. . . current controversies involving personalities and
    provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has
    distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core
    message …” Trump has a platform? A core message? How does “Mexican illegal immigrants are rapists,” “I’m gonna build a huge wall at the border,” and “I hate women” constitute a platform?

  6. nana4gj August 10, 2015

    Campaign managers? Press secretaries? Who knew this man had a campaign staff “managing” his “campaign”? He would have done better with producers of his TV enterprises. This is not a campaign. This is another reality show; a sad circus; with a very sad clown.

    The country must not be in as bad shape as Republicans would have us believe if they can’t manage their primaries better with a screening process for primary contenders instead of taking a dozen and a half, declaring them all credible and capable, and giving the media all of this inane fodder to obsess on for weeks and weeks and months ad nauseum.

    They have disrespected the office of the President, so, no wonder they are making a side show out of their campaign for the office. They “govern” in office without any intelligence or purpose to serve, pulling one stunt after another: shutting down the government; sending letters to Iran against their President; hosting another foreign leader to lobby against their President; and legislating the easy and default issues to distract from the fact that they are too “chicken” to do the hard stuff, like immigration and guns and nuclear disarmament, or, they just don’t know how to do it.

    Who is surprised at any of this?

    I cannot take this political party seriously. Any one of them is bad enough on their own, as I imagine them as a President, and the only one who was “decent enough”, Kasich, would be a puppet with a Republican Majority in Congress.

    A dozen and a half….such a “blessing” from which to select…..a bunch of immature kids and angry white men and one token angry white woman….who can be the loudest, most obnoxious, foul mouth among them or the most zealous with their religion….as they focus on appealing to the most “base” among us.

  7. CrankyToo August 10, 2015

    Hey! Can’t a tonsorially-challenged brother get some love around here? We need to support and encourage the Democratic Party’s new BFF because a Trump victory in the Repugnican nomination spectacle will produce three very desirable results:

    1. a Democratic lock on the presidency for another (likely) eight years;
    2. the demise of the Turd Party; and,
    3. a highly entertaining 2016.

    Go Donald, go Donald….

    1. docb August 13, 2015

      Stone and drumphie are the same caliber of individual…Dirty and callous , and weak thin-skinned…males..The issue is that in Lewsandoski he found an operative that was willing to go to his low level in the morals – ethics race….To the very bottom..

      Stone has contacts and a track record…People say Lewandoski…WHO!

  8. angryspittle August 10, 2015

    Is this the same Roger Stone who, along with his wife, ran a swingers outfit in the late 7o’s or early 80’s? I seem to recall they advertised for swinging couples seeking the same.

  9. Jackie Ander August 12, 2015

    this is ways to fill your bank account With added money every week. check my profile for more info


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