Why is Roger Stone so interested in Cliven Bundy?

The Trump operative says he is heading to Nevada this week to call for a presidential pardon.

 

Roger Stone, an on-and-off adviser of President Donald Trump, says he will be in Las Vegas this Friday to demand a pardon for rancher Cliven Bundy and his co-defendants, who are currently awaiting federal trial. Stone also made public appearances in July in Nevada to urge Trump to intervene in the Bundy case, which is centered on the 2014 standoff between armed Bundy supporters and federal employees attempting to round up the rancher’s illegally grazing cattle. 

The case has become a symbol of longstanding disagreements in Western states over how public lands should be managed, as well as a rallying point for the “Patriot” movement, a loose network of militias and far-right individuals and groups across the country, including in the rural West. The arrival of Stone, a controversial political operative, in Las Vegas this week, is another strange turn to a series of cases that have vexed federal prosecutors from Oregon to Nevada.

Stone is in many ways an odd bedfellow for the Bundys, since he is a longtime Washington insider with no apparent connection to ranching or public-lands issues. The Florida resident is a men’s fashion editor of The Daily Caller, a conservative political website, who embraces his reputation as a “trickster” and who pushes the boundaries of ethical behavior farther than most. In contrast to Bundy’s reputation among his supporters as upstanding and salt-of-the-earth, “Stone sees morality as a synonym for weakness,” New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin says in the documentary Get Me Roger Stone released earlier this year.

Stone is nothing if not prolific: He consulted for presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon — whose face Stone has tattooed on his back. Stone has also consulted for foreign dictatorships in Zaire and the Philippines. Stone’s former lobbying firm “created the modern sleazeball lobbyist,” Toobin says. In the 1980s, Stone’s firm was among the first to help elect a political candidate, only to then lobby them. He readily takes credit for pioneering political attack advertising, now a stress-inducing mainstay of electoral politics. He also co-founded a political action committee, or PAC, which would eventually transform American politics by infusing massive donations into the process. 

Stone worked as a lobbyist on behalf of Trump businesses in the 1980s and last year served as a consultant during the presidential campaign. Stone is “one of (Trump’s) primary influences, perhaps the primary influence,” GOP strategist Michael Caputo says in the documentary.

Roger Stone speaks with media after meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in December 2016. Stone plans to visit Las Vegas on Friday to publicly demand a pardon of Cliven Bundy.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images

Stone’s zealous commitment to the president veered close to a threat of violence when he told TMZ News last month that if the president were impeached, armed groups of Americans would start a civil war, creating “a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.”

So what does Stone want with the Bundys? It’s not entirely clear. He isn’t known for pushing any particular political issue (though recently he’s been supporting more lenient marijuana laws), let alone Constitutional or property rights, which figure prominently the Bundys’ worldview. And while he has consulted for many GOP candidates, Stone is not driven by the values of the Republican Party, which he left to become a Libertarian.

No matter his motives, Stone’s appearance in Las Vegas this week will likely stir up a base of supporters for Bundy that could further align them with Stone — and Trump. And that would feed into a complex narrative of mistrust in the federal government, whose prosecutors have so far been unable to achieve significant convictions for either the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation in 2016 or the Bunkerville standoff.

The trial of Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan is slated to begin Oct. 10 at the Las Vegas federal courthouse. Others who participated in the 2014 standoff, Eric Parker, Scott Drexler, Ryan Payne and Peter Santilli, will appear as co-defendants. Six more men will be tried one month following the end of the upcoming trial. These cases have ignited anger at the federal government over public lands issues, helping rally a coalition of militias and other “Patriot” groups. 

At a Las Vegas rally in July, Stone addressed a crowd of hundreds, saying the “jackbooted” government had “lost all sense of law or morality.” That kind of message would likely play well again, inciting the kind of anger and vitriol that have become the hallmarks of this presidential era. Whether it would yield a pardon remains to be seen. “Donald Trump is riding a crest of voter anger,” Stone explains in the documentary. New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer then adds: “Roger Stone is very smart about anger. It’s one of the things he understands best.”

Tay Wiles is an associate editor of High Country News and can be reached at [email protected]

High Country News Classifieds
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • FREE RANGE BISON AVAILABLE
    Hard grass raised bison available in east Montana. You harvest or possible deliver quartered carcass to your butcher or cut/wrapped pickup. Contact Crazy Woman Bison...
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...
  • HIGH COUNTRY NEWS EDITORIAL INTERNS
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is looking for its next cohort of editorial interns....