“We should all pay attention": Experts identify the "most chilling" part of secret Roger Stone tape

Stone's claim about judges "must be causing the United States Marshals significant concern," says Andrew Weissmann

By Charles R. Davis

Deputy News Editor

Published June 20, 2024 10:36AM (EDT)

Conservative political consultant and lobbyist Roger Stone addresses the "Turning Points: The People's Convention" on June 15, 2024 at Huntington Place Convention Center in Detroit, Michigan. (JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Conservative political consultant and lobbyist Roger Stone addresses the "Turning Points: The People's Convention" on June 15, 2024 at Huntington Place Convention Center in Detroit, Michigan. (JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

In a conversation at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, Republican operative Roger Stone thought he was speaking to a fellow MAGA traveler when he boasted that he and fellow dirty tricksters, who were crying “Stop the Steal” months before the 2020 election even happened, are better prepared this time around to snatch victory from the jaws of electoral defeat.

“At least this time when they do it, you have a lawyer and a judge — his home phone number standing by — so you can stop it,” Stone told Lauren Windsor, a liberal documentary filmmaker who was posing as a supporter and secretly recording him as he spoke this past March about what will happen if the Democratic candidate once again receives more votes than the Republican. Stone, who was only spared a three-year prison term for lying to Congress about Wikileaks and Russia thanks to a pardon from former President Donald Trump, said this time he and his ilk are on an “offensive footing.”

In a separate conversation, taking place this past March and first reported this week by Rolling Stone, the 71-year-old boasted that Trump and his allies are already defeating Democrats in court. “We are beating them," he told Ally Sammarco, a colleague of Windsor. He pointed to the Georgia election interference case “falling apart” and referenced U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump appointee overseeing his classified documents case.

“I think the judge is on the verge of dismissing charges against him in Florida,” Stone said. “They’re delayed in New York City and they’re now delayed in Washington.”

When considering anything that comes out of Stone’s mouth, it is worth remembering, again, that he is a convicted fabulist. The far right, of which Stone is certainly a part, loves to project an aura of intimidating competency when the reality is often shambolic: For all the preparation in 2020 — when Trump enjoyed the powers of incumbency, including an attorney general willing to spread lies about mail-in ballots — the Republican campaign against the republic still manifested itself in last-minute filings by Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, nobody’s idea of an “A Team.”

That’s not to say the threat isn’t real, just that no one should cower in the face of bluster from the likes of one Roger Stone, whose prophesy of total victory in the courts has already been rebutted by 34 felony convictions. Unfortunately, as Windsor herself demonstrated in another secret recording of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, insurrectionists do have allies in high places.

“That was the piece that was most chilling for me,” former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told MSNBC, speaking of Stone’s claim to have a MAGA judge’s number on speed dial should “election fraud” (a Republican loss) happen again.

“With Roger Stone, you don’t know how much is bluster and how much is not,” Weissmann said, but “the fact that there would be home phone numbers in the possession of someone like Roger Stone or his acolytes is something that must be causing the United States Marshals significant concern.”

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Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney, said Stone’s boasts should not just concern law enforcement but anyone who cares about free and fair elections.

“We should all pay attention,” she wrote, noting on her website that while election lawyers (“Stone is not one”) often reach out to judges when things go wrong on election day — people still waiting in line to vote when a polling station is due to close, for example — it’s not safe to assume this particular Florida man, who wanted to toss out millions of ballots in 2020 and appeared on another tape talking about Democrats he'd apparently like to assassinate, is merely concerned with upholding the rule of law and the right to vote.

“[T]o the extent Stone is insinuating something more sinister, that [Republicans] have judges in their pocket, that’s entirely different, entirely wrong,” Vance wrote. “Perhaps he’s just making it up when he says Judge Cannon will soon dismiss the case against Donald Trump and that they have other judges available during the election. But given his background and history, it would be foolish not to be concerned.”

By Charles R. Davis

Charles R. Davis is Salon's deputy news editor. His work has aired on public radio and been published by outlets such as The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The New Republic and Columbia Journalism Review.

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Analysis Andrew Weissmann Joyce Vance Roger Stone