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Group Chat Linked to Roger Stone Shows Ties Amongst Jan. 6 Figures


It was often known as F.O.S. — or Friends of Stone — and while its members shifted over time, they were a motley forged of characters.

There have been “Stop the Steal” organizers, right-wing influencers, Florida state legislative aides and multiple failed candidate loyal to former President Donald J. Trump. One participant ran a web site that promoted disinformation in regards to the Capitol attack. One other was an officer within the Army Reserve allied with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

No less than three members of the group chat at the moment are facing charges in reference to the riot on the Capitol in January 2021. They include Owen Shroyer, the right-hand man of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; Enrique Tarrio, the onetime chairman of the Proud Boys; and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia.

But the main focus of the chat was all the time the person whose photo topped its home page: Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime political operative and adviser to Mr. Trump.

While little is thought about what was said on the chat, the membership list of Friends of Stone, provided to The Recent York Times by certainly one of its participants, offers a sort of road map to Mr. Stone’s associations, showing their scope and nature within the critical period after the 2020 election. During that point, Mr. Stone was involved with a strikingly big selection of people that participated in efforts to challenge the vote count and keep Mr. Trump within the White House.

A few of the 47 people on the list are identified only by nicknames or initials, and Mr. Stone had pre-existing political ties with lots of them. Still, as prosecutors deepen their inquiry into the storming of Capitol, the list suggests that Mr. Stone had the means to be in private contact with key players within the events of Jan. 6 — political organizers, far-right extremists and influential media figures who subsequently played down the attack.

Reached by email, Mr. Stone said that he didn’t control who was admitted to the group chat and noted that Stop the Steal activities were protected by the First Amendment.

“There isn’t any story,” he wrote. “Just harassment.”

While the origins of the group chat remain somewhat obscure, Friends of Stone has existed since at the very least 2019, when Mr. Stone was indicted in reference to the Russia investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, said certainly one of its participants, Pete Santilli, a veteran right-wing radio host. In accordance with Mr. Santilli, the group chat — hosted on the encrypted app Signal — was a sort of protected space where pro-Stone figures in politics and media, lots of whom were banned from social media, could get together and trade links and stories about their mutual friend.

“The first reason for the chat was to have a spot for supporters to share stuff,” Mr. Santilli said. “You drop a link and everybody shares it on their nontraditional channels.”

But after Mr. Trump’s defeat, Friends of Stone looked as if it would assume one other purpose as Mr. Stone found himself in the course of the accelerating Stop the Steal movement devised to challenge the outcomes of the election. The Washington Post, citing footage from a Danish documentary film crew that was following Mr. Stone, said that in early November 2020, he asked his aides to direct those involved in the hassle to watch the chat for developments.

In recent weeks, the Justice Department has expanded its investigation of the riot from those that physically attacked the Capitol to those that weren’t on the constructing but can have helped to shape or guide the violence. Investigators look like fascinated with finding any links between organizers who planned pro-Trump rallies on the Capitol that day and right-wing militants who took part within the assault.

The group chat’s membership list includes several individuals who fit that description.

Named on the list are activists like Marsha Lessard and Christina Skaggs, leaders of a gaggle called the Virginia Freedom Keepers who helped to prepare an anti-vaccine rally scheduled for the east side of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Ms. Lessard and Ms. Skaggs worked with one other anti-vaccine activist, Ty Bollinger, who was also on the list.

Members of the group were amongst those that took part in a conference call on Dec. 30, 2020, when a social media expert who formerly worked for Mr. Stone urged his listeners to “descend on the Capitol” one week later, promising that Joseph R. Biden Jr. “won’t ever be in that White House.”

Ms. Lessard, Ms. Skaggs and Mr. Bollinger didn’t return phone calls searching for comment.

Ali Alexander, one of the vital outstanding Stop the Steal organizers who planned his own event on the Capitol that day, was on the list as well. His lawyer didn’t return a phone call searching for comment.

In the times leading as much as Jan. 6, Mr. Stone was scheduled to talk at each Mr. Alexander’s event and the rally hosted by Ms. Lessard, Ms. Skaggs and others, including Bianca Gracia, the leader of a gaggle called Latinos for Trump, in response to permits and event fliers. Mr. Stone never spoke at those events, nonetheless, and hurried out of Washington whilst the police were still securing the Capitol, in response to the film footage cited by The Post.

Mr. Stone’s connections to Mr. Rhodes and the Oath Keepers were based, at the very least partially, on the undeniable fact that the militia group provided security for him on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. The Oath Keepers also protected Mr. Alexander and his entourage on Jan. 6 and served as security on the events hosted by Ms. Skaggs, Ms. Lessard and Ms. Gracia, court papers say.

No less than certainly one of Mr. Stone’s Oath Keeper bodyguards, Joshua James, has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges within the Capitol attack and is cooperating with the federal government’s inquiry. Kellye SoRelle, a lawyer for the Oath Keepers, was a part of the Friends of Stone chat as well and can also be said to be cooperating with prosecutors within the riot investigation.

Mr. Stone, a Florida resident, has long maintained close ties to the Proud Boys, especially to Mr. Tarrio, who lived in Miami before his arrest. Members of the Proud Boys have acted as bodyguards for Mr. Stone and have served as a few of his most vocal supporters.

In 2019, after Mr. Stone was indicted by Mr. Mueller on charges including obstruction and witness tampering, Mr. Tarrio responded by wearing a T-shirt reading “Roger Stone Did Nothing Improper” at certainly one of Mr. Trump’s political rallies. At one point, Mr. Tarrio’s personal cellphone had a message recorded by Mr. Stone.

Nayib Hassan, Mr. Tarrio’s lawyer, declined to comment on his client’s role within the chat.

During his prosecution, Mr. Stone posted a picture on social media of the federal judge in his case, Amy Berman Jackson, with cross hairs next to her head. When questioned in court in regards to the image, he acknowledged that he had been sent a series of photos by Mr. Tarrio and two other Florida Proud Boys whose names appear on the Friends of Stone membership list: Jacobs Engels and Tyler Ziolkowski.

Mr. Engels was with Mr. Stone in Washington on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. He initially agreed to speak in regards to the group chat but then didn’t return a phone call due to what he later described as a family emergency.

One other one that appeared on the Friends of Stone list — under the name “Ivan” — was Ivan Raiklin, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who promoted a plan after the election to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to not certify electors from several disputed swing states. This plan, which Mr. Raiklin called the “Pence Card,” was ultimately taken up by Mr. Trump and a few of his legal advisers, just like the lawyer John Eastman.

Mr. Raiklin, who didn’t return phone calls searching for comment, was on the Capitol on Jan. 6, but showed no sign of entering the constructing. Closely aligned with Mr. Flynn, he has continued to query the outcomes of the 2020 vote, appearing at so-called election integrity events and arguing that Mr. Trump was arrange by members of the “deep state.”

While the federal government has gathered hundreds of pages of personal messages in its vast investigation of the Capitol attack, it stays unclear if prosecutors have gotten access to the Friends of Stone group chat. Together with the membership list, The Times was given images of a number of snippets of conversations to confirm the chat’s authenticity.

In certainly one of them, Ms. Skaggs told the group that she had just spoken with the pro-Trump lawyer L. Lin Wood, who took part in the hassle to overturn the election. Ms. Skaggs’s message, which doesn’t bear a date, said Mr. Wood was claiming that the Rebel Act — a type of martial law — had been invoked the night before.

Responding to her message, Mr. Rhodes, who had repeatedly urged Mr. Trump to make use of the Rebel Act to remain in power, answered incredulously.

“I’ll imagine it once I see it,” he wrote, dismissing the account with an obscenity.

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