Roger Stone and Julian Assange Are 2016’s Oddest Odd Couple
How a Republican hatchetman and a left-wing cypherpunk joined forces against Hillary Clinton.
Even in this strange election season, dominated as it has been by a reality television star, there are few stranger bedfellows than Roger Stone and Julian Assange. One is a Nixonite hatchetman. The other is an cypherpunk transparency activist. What they lack in a shared ideology, they make up for in a common enemy: Hillary Clinton.
In recent days, Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said he possesses a trove of information that he will publish on a weekly basis and that it includes material on the U.S. election. ”Our upcoming series includes significant material on war, arms, oil, Google, the U.S. elections and myself,” Assange said during a press conference to mark the 10-year anniversary of WikiLeaks, adding that the election-related material will all be published before Nov. 8.
Though he has said those releases are not intended to harm Clinton, a certain segment of right-wing politics has placed great hope in Assange’s upcoming missives. Stone had hyped Assange’s press conference as the moment he predicted Clinton’s corruption would finally be revealed.
But Assange failed to deliver on those expectations and, in turn, deeply disappointed some within the far-right, none more so than conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Still, Stone is undeterred.
If you only know Stone as a right-wing provocateur, then his embrace of Assange might not be that surprising. But Stone’s history as a Republican operative makes his common cause with Assange the latest of many strange alliances created by the deep divide between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Stone began his career as a political operative for former President Richard Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President, through which he played a bit part in the Watergate scandal. Since then, he’s worked for a series of bold-faced Republican candidates, among them Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He gained infamy as the self-professed leader of the so-called Brooks Brothers riot during the 2000 Florida presidential ballot recount, a demonstration that tried to halt the counting of votes by force.
Stone has a taste for swingers’ clubs, bespoke suits, and bodybuilding. He sports a tattoo of a grinning Nixon on his back, as documented in a rollicking New Yorker profile of the operative.
“Assange is a hero of mine because he is exposing the Deep State,” Stone wrote in a Wednesday email to Foreign Policy. “He is neither a Republican or a Democrat — he is exposing the broken two-party duopoly.”
The embrace of Assange by a longtime Republican operative comes as WikiLeaks has, according to some in the intelligence community, aligned its actions with Moscow. After Russian hackers broke into the servers of the Democratic Party, its emails appeared on WikiLeaks’ website. The resulting scandal caused the resignation of party chief Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
For observers of Russian information operations, the alignment of Assange and Stone is not so surprising. Among the rules Stone lives by: “Attack, attack, attack—never defend” and “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.” (These are spelled out in the unpublished Stone’s Rules for War.)
Keir Giles, an associate fellow at London’s Chatham House who closely studies the Kremlin propaganda machine, said the parallels between Stone’s slogans and Moscow’s propaganda techniques are striking. “This is what we always see from Russia at the moment,” he told FP.
But what does Stone see in Assange? Their politics diverge beyond their shared enemy Clinton, whom Assange now accuses of wanting to kill him a drone strike. Assange’s dour exile in an Ecuadorean embassy doesn’t quite live up to Stone’s taste for excess.
Does Assange live up to any of his Stone’s rules?
“He appears to be a sharp dresser,” Stone told FP.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images