In the early weeks of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump stunned his rivals and the press in recent weeks by abandoning the conventional rules and decorum of political discourse. And that made perfect sense, considering that GOP operative Roger Stone, long famous for hardball tactics and dirty tricks, was one of Trump's key advisers.
Update: Coverage of second Republican debate on CNN.
But this weekend, the two men parted ways. The Washington Post's Robert Costa reported Saturday that Trump, in an interview, said he had fired Stone and no longer wanted "publicity seekers" on his campaign. Stone, however, soon told reporters that he wasn't fired but had already quit, and his apparent letter of resignation was sent to the New York Times' Maggie Haberman. (In the letter, Stone cited "the current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights" as his reason for resigning.) Politico's Marc Caputo has more details in a version of events sourced to friends of Stone. Eventually, Stone himself took to Twitter:
Sorry @realDonaldTrump didn't fire me- I fired Trump. Diasagree with diversion to food fight with @megynkelly away core issue messages— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) August 8, 2015
Stone, a Nixon aide who later had the former president's face tattooed on his back, has long been known for both his ruthless tactics, and for the pride he takes in them. He's been called a "legendary political hit man" and "the undisputed master of the black arts of electioneering" — and that's according to quotes he put on his own website. "Politics is not about uniting people. It's about dividing people," Stone told the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin in a memorable 2008 profile titled "The Dirty Trickster."
And Stone didn't change his ways. Just look at his Twitter account, where after Trump's campaign was up and running, he referred to Bill Clinton as a "Cosby-like rapist," CNN contributor Ana Navarro as a "quota hire," Jeb Bush as a "spoiled, elitist crook," and the Bush family as a "crime family." He also said that a forthcoming book of his will reveal "who really killed" Clinton White House aide Vince Foster, which would pair well with his recent book claiming that LBJ was the mastermind behind JFK's assassination.
Who really killed Vince Foster and who ordered the body moved. Oct 1 #tcot #pjnet pic.twitter.com/YeqIr1fAFW— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) July 25, 2015
Ana Navarro the dumbest person on TV since CNN fired moron @rolandmartin - both quota hires #CNN— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) July 28, 2015
The startling truth about the Bush Crime Family https://t.co/Tr2Ir18qZX #CIA #IMC #JebBush pic.twitter.com/r4qZ5h6Sne— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) July 27, 2015
Media hacks ignore @billclinton trail of rape then dish up this falsehood against @realDonaldTrump #desperate http://t.co/h1yTICSwmW— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) July 28, 2015
Frankly I'd rather drink my own piss than see spoiled ,elitist crook Jeb Bush in the White House— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) July 25, 2015
New Hampshire voter asks @GeorgePataki1 how @AlDAmatoNY's cock tastes— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) July 26, 2015
Though Stone has long been associated with Trump, his involvement in the mogul's campaign came as a bit of a surprise, given what Trump said about him in the seven-year-old New Yorker profile:
TOOBIN: Stone worked for Donald Trump as an occasional lobbyist and as an adviser when Trump considered running for President in 2000. "Roger is a stone-cold loser," Trump told me. "He always tries taking credit for things he never did."
Indeed, last time Trump considered running for president, in 2011, he ended up distancing himself from Stone, who was talking up his effort in the press. Trump told Politico that Stone "is not an adviser to my potential campaign." This time around, he was — until this weekend.
Like Trump, Stone is a larger-than-life personality. The New Yorker profile begins with Stone bringing Toobin to a Miami swingers' club "to explain the role he may have played in the fall of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York." (Stone said he met a prostitute at the club who revealed Spitzer was one of her clients, and he later told the FBI. Toobin concluded that "there is ample reason for skepticism" about Stone's claims, and his "significance, if any" in the FBI's case against Spitzer is "hard to assess.")
In another excellent profile, from 2007, the Weekly Standard's Matt Labash quoted people describing Stone as a "lord of mischief" and the "boastful black prince of Republican sleaze." He also wrote that the then-56-year-old was "a dandy by disposition who boasts of having not bought off-the-rack since he was 17," and chronicled his feuds with various politicians of both parties.
"Politics with me isn't theater," Stone told Labash. "It's performance art. Sometimes, for its own sake." Now, he'll have to find a different venue for his next project.