The day I went to Roger Stone’s trial, the sky was intensely blue and the air was exceedingly crisp. It was one of those November days when the novelty of the cold was still somewhat appealing. I waited in a long line to enter the courtroom that contained—that dared hope to contain?—Roger Stone’s trial.
Courthouses host many trials, most of which are completely uninteresting to everyone, including the participants. This was not that. By virtue of the fact that this trial involved Roger Stone, it was of an insane level of interest to a great many people. Because everything involving with Roger Stone is, in some way, insane.
Because the secret of Roger Stone—I should say one of the secrets—is that while he is a creature of New York and Washington, he is, at heart, the Florida Man of politics.
When I finally got through the metal detectors I found myself in a full press room and took a seat in the back, next to the fun, festive former U.S. attorney and MSNBC talking head Glenn Kirschner. I was just in time to watch the second day of a disheveled Randy Credico reading text messages and emails he’d gotten from Roger Stone.
Randy Credico is a talk-show-host/comic/presidential candidate/whatever. The kind of guy who’s always willing to make a few bucks. He reminds me of one of the weird hangers-on who surrounded my mother during her depressing 1980s divorcée phase.
Credico got pulled into this whole mishigas because he’s been friends with Stone for a long time and when Congress began investigating Stone’s role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Credico was fingered as someone who may have helped backchannel information to WikiLeaks. Unlike Stone, he cooperated with investigators. Which put a strain on their relationship.
Randy did not appear—there’s really no way to put this delicately—to be a man in his prime. The hair, the suit, the off-kilter smile.
He was nervous. Really, really nervous. He kept putting on and taking off his glasses. At one point he went to the bathroom and returned without his glasses and then said he had left his glasses in the bathroom and needed someone to get them for him. I could not understand what a man might be doing in a bathroom that would require him to remove his glasses from his face. At another moment, Randy cleaned his glasses so loudly that the microphone picked up the squeaking sound as he rubbed the lenses clean. The glasses were clearly a thing for Randy.
Randy was asked by the lawyers to read emails he’d received from Roger. Many of them were musings from Stone about how he would hurt Randy.
For instance, Roger called him “a rat” and “a stoolie.” He warned Randy to stop cooperating with the authorities, saying, “Let’s get it on. Prepare to die, cocksucker.” Randy is a sensitive soul who loves his dog. Roger threatened the dog, too, writing, “I’m going to take that dog away from you. Not a fucking thing you can do about it either because you are a weak piece of shit.”
Remember: This is how Roger Stone treats his friends.
To Randy’s credit, he kept saying “blank” instead of the curse words Roger used. And to the extent that Stone’s legal team was able to win any sort of points off of Credico, it was only that Credico said that he didn’t really think Stone was serious about the dog stuff: Credico said that he believed that, in his heart, Stone was a “dog lover” and so concluded that “I don’t think he was going to steal my dog. I think he was pretty riled up at that time. . . . I know he wouldn’t have ever touched that dog. It was hyperbole by him.”
About “preparing to die” . . . that’s another question. You can never quite be sure when Florida Man is serious.
Anyone who’s seen Get Me Roger Stone knows the truth about Roger Stone: He’s a bullshit artist, a guy who plays up his connections to Republican malfeasance because he thinks that it’s a game and that you can’t win if you don’t play. Now, he’s on trial for it. Because it turns out that bragging about crimes will sometimes get you in trouble with the law.
What’s funny is that it never seems to have occurred to Stone that someday, someone might take him seriously and that he might be held accountable. Stone has spent his career thinking that he was immune from accountability because he was so powerful. Rich and powerful people get away with things all the time. Donald Trump, for instance, had gotten away with everything his whole life. Junior, too. And Putin, obviously. Immunity is one of the things that power buys you, most of the time.
But it turns that Stone got away with things all these years not because he was powerful, but because he was a joke. The guy who loved thinking that he was in the middle of everything was actually never important enough to be prosecuted for anything. And now at the moment of his greatest triumph—after all, he is, in some part, responsible for making Donald Trump president of the United States—he has finally become important enough for justice to come calling for him.
And he isn’t powerful enough to stop it.
There is something deeply tragic about all of this. Putin murders dissidents. Trump allows American allies to be murdered. And all of the principals in Trump World dance and whirl in their turn, enjoying everything, accountable for nothing.
Meanwhile, it’s the two-bit players who wind up on trial, arguing with each other about who was guiltier of the crime that Trump got away with.