Presidential confidante and political provocateur Roger Stone faced tough questions from U.S. Rep. Val Demings and other prominent Central Floridians at an Orlando event Friday.
At his appearance at the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, Stone harshly criticized former White House adviser Steve Bannon, defended President Donald Trump’s mental state, took issue with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new marijuana rules and, for good measure, talked for several minutes about his belief that LBJ was behind the JFK assassination.
That latter view was no secret — copies of his book, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ,” were available for purchase at a table in the back, along with “The Clintons’ War on Women” and “The Bush Crime Family.”
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” said Stone, a former Richard Nixon aide who later served Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush before becoming one of Trump’s first supporters for president — as far back as 1988 and 2000, he said.
But it was Stone’s advance knowledge about WikiLeaks’ publishing of hacked Democratic emails in 2016 that brought Stone the most notoriety over the past two years, including his being called to testify before a congressional committee.
Given a chance to ask Stone a question, Demings, D-Orlando, asked whether Trump was dividing America along ethnic lines, to which Stone said a rising economy would help everyone.
But Demings, a recent appointee to the House Judiciary Committee who has vowed to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign had Russian connections, also half-jokingly told him, “If I ask the question I really want to ask, I’d have to take you to a dark room.”
“You may not like the answer,” Stone responded to Demings,
He said he only found out through a source about the emails, didn’t know how WikiLeaks got them and there was no collusion with the Trump campaign.
“I know of no collusion, coordination or correspondence with Russia or any entity,” Stone said.
The meeting Donald Trump Jr. held with a potential Russian source of information on Hillary Clinton at Trump Tower in 2016, which Bannon reportedly called “treasonous,” and “unpatriotic,” could have been a “set-up,” Stone said.
As for Bannon, Stone said he disputed some of author Michael Wolff’s reporting for his new book, “Fire and Fury,” saying he had “his own brush” with Wolff in the past.
But if Trump’s former adviser really questioned Trump’s mental state in an interview in his White House office, he said, it’s “a stunning betrayal.”
Stone defended Trump against accusations of being incapacitated or having mental issues, saying, “I understand the president has a unique style, and some people don’t like it. The ‘Trump is crazy, Trump is crazy, Trump is crazy’ meme? I don’t think that’s going to work.”
That was in response to one of several questions from Democratic consultant Dick Batchelor, who asked about Stone’s previous comments about Sept. 11, the LBJ conspiracy theory and his calling CNN contributor Roland Martin “a fat Negro” in 2016, for which he later apologized.
“Why should you have any credibility?” Batchelor asked.
“Why are you here listening to me? Stone responded.
“I’m a Democrat, and it’s a free meal,” Batchelor replied.
The biggest criticism Stone had of the administration was of Sessions’ revocation of protections against states that have legalized marijuana, either for recreaction or as medication, as in Florida.
“Jeff Sessions is making a cataclysmic mistake,” he said. “My question is, has he chimed in with his boss? Trump said he supports state’s rights when it comes to the legalization of marijuana.”
At the end, the questioner voted by members as asking the best question got to take a picture with Stone.
“I’ll stand on the left,” Batchelor joked as he walked to the podium.
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