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Why is Robert Mueller so curious about Roger Stone?

The self-professed king of dirty tricks could find himself in the sights of the special counsel's investigation

While everyone in Washington wonders whether Donald Trump will sit down to talk to Robert Mueller—including, it seems, the president himself—news broke that the special counsel has taken a particular interest in one of the president’s closest and most colourful on-again, off-again confidants: Roger Stone.

CNBC reported yesterday that “sources say” Mueller is “focusing sharply on links between Trump confidant Roger Stone and former campaign official Rick Gates.” Rick Gates is a protégé of Paul Manafort, and the two were the first people to face indictments as part of Mueller’s investigation, though it was mainly for work they did overseas, especially for Ukraine, unrelated to the Trump campaign. Stories have usually centered on Manafort, the older, more powerful of the two and, briefly, the chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign. But Gates always struck me as the one who could potentially do more damage. He stayed on Trump’s campaign after Manafort was fired, working on the transition and serving on Trump’s inauguration committee. And he, unlike Manafort, came to a plea deal with Mueller’s team after deciding to cooperate. CNBC says Mueller’s interest is “largely about what was discussed at meetings, including dinners, between Stone and Gates, before and during the campaign, said the sources, who have knowledge of the substance of the recent interviews.”

Stone has long been a subject of speculation, if not with Mueller than among Washington reporters, for his praise and correspondence with “Guccifer 2.0,” the hacker who said he broke into the Democratic National Committee’s servers in 2016. WikiLeaks published those emails, which revealed how the DNC favored actual Democrat Hillary Clinton over independent-except-during-a-presidential-run Bernie Sanders, a couple of months after Stone hinted on Twitter that a scandal like that was going to break. It’s not just Stone’s reported discussions with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that could get him in trouble. Guccifer 2.0 has been revealed to be an intelligence agent of the Russian government.

Stone, the self-professed king of dirty tricks who has worked for a number of Republican presidents and has a huge tattoo of one (Richard Nixon, natch) on his back, railed against the CNBC report. But not on Twitter, usually the ranter’s medium of choice. Twitter banned him from the site permanently last year after he let loose his anger rather personally, upon seeing CNN’s story reporting that Mueller’s team was about to file its first indictments—which turned out to be against Gates and Manafort. He attacked a host of reporters and commentators, including Jake Tapper and Bill Kristol. He called CNN anchor Don Lemon, for example, an “ignorant lying cocksucker” and a “dull witted arrogant partyboi.”

No, Stone is stuck on the normally-less-political medium of Instagram now. “CNBC is peddling fake news,” he declared in one post, while in another he said to “stand by for my blistering response.” The millennials who make up Instagram’s biggest readership will be waiting with bated breath, I’m sure.

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