Was Trump confidant Roger Stone really poisoned?
WASHINGTON — For more than a year, Roger Stone has asserted that he spent Christmas of 2016 trying to survive an assassination attempt — most likely radioactive polonium poisoning — by someone trying to frame Russia.
Tests were conducted; doctors were baffled, the longtime political operative and adviser to Donald Trump told journalists. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was contacted.
But from the moment he made the claims, Stone has deflected questions when asked to back up his claims.
It happened again on Friday, during a wide-ranging conversation with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and Trump. At one point Cooper said he had questions about Stone’s polonium assertions.
‘‘I was extraordinarily ill,’’ Stone told Cooper, before referring to pictures of his face during the period. “You can see in the file footage that you used at the beginning of the segment that I still have lesions on my face from that illness. My doctor believed I was poisoned. They believed initially that there was some radioactive element to that. I’ve never been this sick in my life.’’
But Stone wouldn’t go into detail when Cooper asked for proof, even when the host insisted that ‘‘polonium poisoning, that would be a huge issue in the United States if someone was poisoned with polonium.’’
Still, Stone resisted: ‘‘I don’t think my health is of great interest to the American people other than the half of them that just wish I would drop dead.’’
He directed viewers to ‘‘my InfoWars report on it.’’ The Alex Jones-hosted website airs conspiracy theories.
Stone could not be immediately reached for comment on Saturday.
As Stone spoke on CNN, an ocean away, a former Russian spy and his daughter were recovering from a poisoning attempt in a British town that the British government says points to Russia.
The poisoning last month of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, has triggered a diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West. Britain and dozens of other countries, including the United States, have expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity. Russia has ordered the expulsion of Western diplomats from embassies in Moscow and ordered closures of consulates, including the US facility in Saint Petersburg.
The Skripals were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury, England. He is a 66-year-old former colonel in Russia’s military intelligence service who was convicted of helping British agents, then freed in a spy swap. She is a 33-year-old who had just dined with her father at a restaurant named Zizzi.
Police said the father and daughter were ‘‘targeted specifically’’ with a nerve agent. Officials have not publicly identified the nerve agent, but they have found traces of it at the restaurant, according to the Associated Press.
Russia has countered, bizarrely, alleging a conspiracy involving two dead guinea pigs and a dead cat. And like Stone, the Russians assert that the Skripals poisoning was an effort to frame Moscow.
Stone’s poisoning claims first gained steam in a February 2017 interview with Time Magazine’s Alex Altman.
‘‘I got progressively worse. For almost 17 days in a row, I had a fever of over 100. I went to the hospital. They conducted blood tests. They were baffled. Blood tests went to the CDC. They found an exogenous substance in my blood that had the characteristics of polonium,’’ he said.
Like Cooper, Altman asked for proof.
Stone told him ‘‘there would be too many suspects’’ to figure out who’d want to murder him.
He did, however, push a theory about a possible motive: ‘‘The Senate Intelligence Committee was going to have hearings. I could see why some people might not want me to do so. You know, you bump off Stone, make it look like the Russians did it: ‘Wow, the Russians killed their agent because he was going to spill his guts in Congress.’ Just a theory. The Deep State moves in strange ways.’’
As The New York Times wrote, the Skripals case bears similarities to the fate of Alexander V. Litvinenko, who was poisoned to death by radioactive Polonium 210 that was slipped into his tea in 2006. Litvinenko was a colonel in the FSB, which succeeded the infamous KGB. He often assailed Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Friday neither Cooper nor Stone mentioned the Skripals’ case or Litvinenko, even though, if Stone’s claims are true, there are similarities: a high-profile civilian attacked covertly with a deadly substance.
Stone was an adviser to Trump on the 2016 presidential campaign. He left in August 2015 but was still a Trump supporter, and a surrogate for the candidate in the media.
Most recently, the longtime political operative has been in the news after he claimed he had dinner with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who has resided at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.