Roger Stone speaks to the media at Trump Tower on December 6, 2016 in New York City.
Source: Roger Stone told Trump to fire Comey
01:09 - Source: CNN

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When Trump axed Comey, trained eyes turned to Stone

The right wing provocateur has a habit of popping up in the midst of the most sordid political tales

CNN  — 

Roger Stone, the right wing gadfly and provocateur with a career that traces back to the Nixon administration, has a habit of popping up in the midst of the most sordid political tales. His enduring public loyalty to Nixon, whose face is tattooed on Stone’s back, is the bedrock of a public persona that bathes in drama and celebrates skullduggery.

So when President Donald Trump, in a sensational turn on Tuesday night, axed FBI Director James Comey, trained eyes turned to Stone.

By a little after midnight, Politico reported that the longtime Trump confidant had pushed his friend to remove the man in charge of the federal probe into alleged connections between the President’s campaign – possibly including Stone, mostly an informal adviser – and Russia.

CNN was told the same. A source familiar with the conversation – which took place after Comey appeared at a hearing last week on Capitol Hill – confirmed to CNN that Stone advised Trump to sack the FBI boss.

Trump, who has said he no longer watches CNN, seems to have made an exception on Wednesday morning. In a tweet, he denied that Stone played any role in his decision. “The Roger Stone report on @CNN is false - Fake News,” Trump wrote, adding that it had been “a long time” since he spoke to Stone.

A White House spokesperson subsequently reached out to CNN to reiterate Trump’s statement, saying the President has not spoken to Roger Stone in a “long time” and, more sharply, “The President has not spoken to Roger Stone in many months and any reports suggesting otherwise are categorically untrue.”

The timing of their most recent chat, to say nothing of the content, is not entirely clear. But in a radio interview on The David Webb Show last Friday night, Stone said he’d last spoken to Trump “less than a week ago.”

Stone didn’t respond to a morning email, but he did tweet to push back against stories suggesting he “urged” Trump to act, while expressing his “100%” support for those actions.

He also denies being the source for the Politico and CNN reports, which might sound weird, but gives you an idea of Stone’s unique relationship with the media.

That dynamic has been tested with Trump’s rise, as Stone, who had come to be regarded in recent years as a gabby relic of Nixon era political trickster culture, rose up again to become an active player in presidential politics when Trump, his friend and former client, grabbed hold of the GOP primary race.

Stone was fired by the campaign in August 2015, but his profile was further boosted as he repeatedly, over the course of months during the 2016 campaign, hinted at or claimed knowledge of Wikileaks’ activities. The chatter raised suspicions that Stone was acting as a conduit between the Trump operation and hackers responsible for stealing communications from the Democratic National Committee and, later on, the personal email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Stone rejects those suggestions and has since said, of his oddly prescient August 21 tweet warning “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel,” that he was only referring to Clinton aide’s business dealings.

Whatever his role, or lack thereof, in this latest chapter, Stone was predictably forward in volunteering his opinion on Comey’s departure.

Not long after the news broke, he retweeted from his “Stone Cold Truth” account a GIF of Trump, seated in his boardroom during a scene from “The Apprentice,” with the familiar words appropriated for the occasion: “You’re fired!”